Last Monday, counterterrorism officials warned mass transit systems, sports stadiums and hotels around the nation to step up security because of fears an Afghanistan-born immigrant under arrest in Colorado may have been plotting with others to detonate backpack bombs aboard New York City trains.
Investigators say Najibullah Zazi, a 24-year-old shuttle van driver at the Denver airport, played a direct role in a terror plot that unraveled during a trip to New York City around the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. The FBI is now conducting an urgent search for “a core group” of nine to 12 other people associated with Najibullah Zazi who may have knowledge of his plans.
Law enforcement officials still have “deep concern” that the government may have only partially disrupted a terror plot in this case.
In a case officials say are unrelated to the apparent New York terrorism plot, an Illinois man was ordered held on Thursday on charges he tried to blow up a federal building in the state capital.
Michael Finton, also known as Talib Islam, was arrested in Springfield, Illinois, and charged with attempted murder of federal officers or employees and trying to use a weapon of mass destruction, charges that could carry a life sentence.
Finton was arrested on Wednesday in Springfield as he used a cell phone to try to detonate the bomb he believed was inside a van he had just parked outside the federal building.
Since early 2009, Justice Department personnel have been watching Finton after being tipped that he may be wanting to commit a possible terrorist act against a target in the U.S. When “it appeared that Finton was on the verge of taking action, so it was decided to proactively provide him with an opportunity for action that we controlled, rather than merely hoping to be able to find out and stop him,” according to a government affidavit.
He was introduced to an undercover FBI agent who began working with him to plot an attack, but Finton was repeatedly told he could walk away at any time, according to the Justice Department. Eventually, Finton picked the federal building in Springfield as the target and on Wednesday he parked a van he believed carried one ton of explosives at the location.
In yet another case coming to a head last week, A 19-year-old Jordanian citizen, Hosam Maher Husein Smadi was arrested Thursday after he parked a vehicle laden with government-supplied fake explosives in the underground parking garage of Fountain Place, a 60-story Dallas skyscraper.
The arrest was part of an FBI sting operation that began after an agent monitoring an online extremist Web site discovered Smadi espousing jihad against the U.S. more than six months ago.
In conversations with agents posing as members of an al-Qaeda sleeper cell, Smadi said he came to the U.S. to wage jihad, or holy war. He told agents he wanted to target military recruitment centers, but eventually settled on financial institutions.
“I want to destroy … targets … everything that helps America on its war on Arabs will be targeted,” he told undercover agents in May. The sting culminated in Thursday’s arrest after Smadi parked a 2001 Ford Explorer Sport Trac, supplied by the FBI, in the garage of the emerald-green glass office tower that is home to many businesses, including a Wells Fargo Home Mortgage office.
Inside the SUV was a fake bomb, designed to appear similar to one used by Timothy McVeigh in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. Authorities say Smadi thought he could detonate it with a cellphone. After parking the vehicle, he got into another vehicle with one of the agents, and they drove several blocks away.
An agent offered Smadi earplugs, but he declined, “indicating that he wanted to hear the blast,” authorities said. He then dialed the phone, thinking it would trigger the bomb, authorities said. Instead, the agents took him into custody.
Two men charged in North Carolina last month with plotting terrorist attacks overseas also planned to attack the U.S. Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia. A new indictment unveiled on Thursday charged Daniel Patrick Boyd, the group’s alleged ringleader, and Hysen Sherifi “with conspiring to murder U.S. military personnel” in connection with the planned assault on the Marine Corps base, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Raleigh said in a statement last Thursday. Boyd is a U.S. citizen and Sherifi is a native of Kosovo and a legal permanent resident of the United States.
The indictment offered no details, except to say that Boyd had undertaken reconnaissance of Quantico and obtained maps of the base in order to plan the attack and was in possession of armor piercing ammunition, and had stated that it was “to attack the Americans.” Prosecutors have said Boyd trained in terrorist camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan from 1989 to 1992, and fought against the Soviets in Afghanistan.
All seven suspects in the North Carolina case were denied bail after a hearing in Raleigh last month at which prosecutors played FBI recordings as evidence that they had discussed waging “jihad” as part of a conspiracy to conduct attacks in foreign nations.
It has apparently been a busy few weeks for the FBI and other counter-terrorism organizations involved just to have stopped these acts of terror in the U.S.
Kudos to all involved in stopping these attacks!
Now, I have to wonder. Officials say there was no connection between these would-be terrorists and they do not appear to be connected with each other in any way.
Let’s take a look at the individuals.
Finton (the Illinois terror suspect), converted to Islam while in prison on other charges. It said he idolized the American Taliban, John Walker Lindh, which is what drew attention to him by law enforcement authorities in the first place. Finton also had traveled to Saudi Arabia as recently as 2008.
Smadi (the Dallas suspect) is a Jordanian citizen who had pledged allegiance to Osama Bin Laden and thought he was working with members of an al-Qaeda sleeper cell.
Nazibullah Zazi, (the man arrested in Denver in connection with the New York case) is an Afghan-born, Denver resident who federal sources believe is the central figure in a terror cell involving at least 12 people. Informants inside Pakistan have told authorities they saw Zazi in an al Qaeda training camp during his admitted travels to the country’s lawless tribal regions in the summer of 2008.
Daniel Boyd (the alleged ringleader of the North Carolina terror suspects) trained in terrorist camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan from 1989 to 1992.
I’m not saying they are connected in any way, but I certainly hope someone is checking it out just to fill that square on the investigation!