Three people were arrested and another was being sought Saturday for allegedly plotting to blow up a fuel line that feeds John F. Kennedy International Airport and runs through residential neighborhoods, authorities said.
The plot never got past the planning stages. It posed no threat to air safety or the public, the FBI said Saturday.
At a news conference, US Attorney Roslynn R. Mauskopf called it "one of the most chilling plots imaginable."
"The devastation that would be caused had this plot succeeded is just unthinkable," she said.
Authorities arrested Russell Defreitas, a US citizen native to Guyana and former JFK employee. He was in custody in Brooklyn and was expected to be arraigned Saturday afternoon.
Two other men, Abdul Kadir of Guyana and Kareem Ibrahim of Trinidad, are in custody in Trinidad. A fourth man, Abdel Nur of Guyana, was still being sought.
All four have been charged with conspiring to attack the airport, one of the nation's busiest, by blowing up major fuel supply tanks and the pipeline, according to the indictment.
The pipeline takes fuel from a facility in Linden, New Jersey, to the airport. Other lines service LaGuardia Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport.
Kadir, a Muslim and former member of Parliament in Guyana, was arrested in Trinidad for attempting to secure money for "terrorist operations," according to a Guyanese police commander who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Kadir left his position in Parliament last year. Muslims make up about 9 percent of the former Dutch and British colony's 770,000 population, mostly from the Sunni sect.
An official said the plotters had conducted surveillance on giant jet fuel tanks at JFK and the pipeline. They had taken surveillance video of the targets and took it to Trinidad to review the tape, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the arrests were not yet announced.
The official said investigators first found out about the plot in January 2006. After that, an informant infiltrated the group.
"This was the ultimate hand-and-glove operation between NYPD and FBI," said US Rep. Peter King, a Republican from Long Island.
The arrests mark the latest in a series of alleged homegrown terrorism plots targeting high-profile American landmarks.
A year ago, seven men were arrested in what officials called the early stages of a plot to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago and destroy FBI offices and other buildings.
A month later, authorities broke up a plot to bomb underwater New York City train tunnels to flood lower Manhattan.
And six people were arrested a month ago in an alleged plot to unleash a bloody rampage on Fort Dix in New Jersey.