Officials said the suspects had planned to detonate a car packed with plastic explosives outside a temple in the Bronx neighborhood of Riverdale.
The FBI, state's attorney's office and New York state and local police announced the arrests Wednesday night, but said the investigation had been under way for about a year.
CBS News correspondent Bob Orr reports that officials say this plot was infiltrated at its earliest stages in June 2008 by an informant working for law enforcement. The informant, who purported to represent the terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammaed held a series of meetings with the conspirators in Newburgh, N.Y. and ultimately arranged to supply the would-be terrorists with an inert anti-aircraft missile and inert plastic explosives.
Officials say at the men were not equipped to carry out any attack and never came close to being "operational."
The men arrested were James Cromitie, David Williams, Laguerre Payen and Onta Williams. Charges include conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction in the United States, and conspiracy to acquire and use anti-aircraft missiles.
The suspects are all said to be converted Muslims. The apparent leader of the group, Cromitie, supplied a motive. Cromitie, who also goes by the alias Abdul Rahman, told the informant his parents were born in Afghanistan and he was upset that American military forces were there killing Muslims.
Officials are comparing this alleged threat to the, reports Orr. The suspects had serious intent, strong grievances against the United States and a desire to be jihadists. However, as in the Fort Dix Plot, authorities were able to infiltrate this plan at an early stage and the suspects were under considerable surveillance for the past eight months.
The explosives they obtained through the informant were dummies and not capable of causing harm, however the men were able to purchase at least one nine millimeter semi-automatic pistol for use in an attack.
Rep. Peter King of New York, the senior Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, was briefed on the case following the arrests.
"This was a long, well-planned investigation, and it shows how real the threat is from homegrown terrorists," said King.