*** There is no honour (<-Canadian spelling) and dignity in terrorism only humiliation for yourself and those close to you and regret by yourself and by those close to you. Seek light, not darkness - it will guide you to what is better. MS ***
They were alienated young losers when they first turned to radical Islam to feel like winners.
"What's better than sitting back here and working like a dog - being somebody's puppy, basically what I call it - than moving forward to a life of dignity, life of honor," Carlos Eduardo Almonte explained to the undercover cop taping him in March.
In Somalia, Almonte, 24, and his 20-year-old pal, Mohamed Mahmood Alessa, apparently expected to find bullets and blood and battle - an escape from their humdrum New Jersey suburban lives. Their arrests Saturday at Kennedy Airport stopped all that, officials say.
But in the years before they were nabbed, they often went to mall stores and played first-person-shooter computer games - assuming the terrorist role.
And they watched propaganda videos online, bought military gear and pumped iron to make themselves strong soldiers.
"I'm going to get a gun. I'm the type of person to use it at any time," Alessa bragged to the undercover cop recording their every word. "I'll have more bodies on it than the hairs on my beard."
Alessa, the son of Palestinian immigrants, and Almonte, the son of Dominican parents, turned against the country their parents struggled to get to.
Both had strained relationships with their fathers, who could not understand their sullen, rebellious sons.
Neighbors and classmates say they were normal, outgoing kids who liked sports and Nintendo but grew distant and hostile - and beards - when they began to see themselves as holy warriors as far back as 2006.
In high school, Alessa started hanging out with older kids and getting into trouble.
"He grew out a beard and started getting into fights all the time," said Daniel Forbes, 20. "He isolated himself. He said, 'Nobody gets me.'"
"He wasn't the most popular kid," said Kristen Fernandez, 22, another classmate.
Almonte, though older, became Alessa's follower years ago, after graduating from Elmwood Park High School in 2005.
He converted to Islam, renamed himself "Omar" and started talking about hating America.
"He was kind of a loner. He didn't have a lot going on," said James Fracione, 22, who knew both men. "Then he grew a beard and started talking like [Alessa], saying what America was doing was wrong."
Raj Merchant, 22, who once took an art class with Almonte, said he dropped his high school friends.
"Once he converted, he just disappeared and nobody heard anything from him at all. And then this happened," Merchant said.
"The kid completely changed," said neighbor Jeffrey Strickland, whose son went to school with Almonte. "He went from this fun-loving kid to a real serious, political kind of guy."
Neighbors said Alessa's father was an engineer in Jordan who came to America more than two decades ago and works at a candy store. The family has lived in the same North Bergen, N.J., apartment for 16 years.
They sometimes fought loudly with their son, neighbors said.
"He had anger-management problems," said Alessa's landlord, Hemant Shah. "He doesn't like it here. He wanted to go."