Two men pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to charges of plotting to blow up New York synagogues and churches, US officials said.
Ahmed Ferhani, 26, and Mohamed Mamdouh, 20, were formally charged by the Manhattan district attorney with charges resulting from a "terror plot targeting New York synagogues".
"Between October 2010 and May 2011, Ferhani and Mamdouh conspired to bomb synagogues and churches in Manhattan to send a message of violence to non-Muslims, including Americans, Christians, and, primarily, Jews," the DA's office said in a statement.
Alleged plot ... Ahmed Ferhani Photo: AP
Ferhani and Mamdouh respectively face six and five charges, of possessing weapons and terrorism charges. But the grand jury rejected a charge of conspiracy as a terror crime, which carried a maximum of life imprisonment.
Instead it was replaced with a lesser conspiracy charge which imposes jail terms of between 12-and-a-half years to 32 years.
The plan was to "dress up as Jewish worshippers, attend a service at a synagogue, and leave a bag containing a bomb inside the synagogue before departing", the statement said.
The indictment said the two men wanted "to blow up ten synagogues at one time" and also "use grenades to blow up churches".
"A picture emerges from today's indictment that describes how the defendants plotted to bomb synagogues in Manhattan in an effort to contribute to what they referred to as 'the cause'," the statement said.
When the plot was unveiled in May, police said the men, both of North African descent - one a US citizen and the other a legal resident - were arrested immediately after purchasing weapons from an undercover agent.
They bought two Browning semi-automatic pistols, a Smith and Wesson handgun, ammunition and a hand grenade during the sting operation.
According to the Manhattan prosecutor's office, the undercover investigation lasted seven months, during which time Ferhani and Mamdouh were recorded making plans for horrific attacks against the city's large Jewish population.
New York, targeted repeatedly by Islamist bombers over the last two decades, has been on heightened alert since US commandos killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in May there had been 13 plots against New York since the September 11, 2001 mass murder of nearly 3000 people at the World Trade Centre.