Throughout 2009, U.S. law-enforcement agencies worked successfully to prevent catastrophic attacks. The following are some of the major domestic investigations of jihadist terror and some of the alleged targets:
- Synagogue and National Guard base. On May 20, the FBI and New York Police Department arrested four radical Muslims for plotting to bomb a New York synagogue using improvised explosive devices with C-4 plastic explosives and to shoot down a military plane using a Stinger missile. According to the complaint in the case, the accused terrorists were interested in killing Jews and destroying U.S. aircraft at an Air National Guard base.
"I hate those motherf***ers, those f***ing Jewish bastards," fumed James Cromitie, the alleged ringleader. After lamenting that the "best target," the World Trade Center, had already been destroyed, Cromitie said he would like to attack a synagogue. The complaint quotes would-be co-conspirator Onta Williams as stating that the U.S. military is "killing Muslim brothers and sisters in Muslim countries so, if we kill them here with IEDs and Stingers, it is equal."
- U.S. troops in Afghanistan and New York commuter trains. A federal indictment was unsealed July 22 in the case of Bryant Neal Vinas - a Muslim convert from Long Island and U.S. citizen who was captured while fighting alongside Al Qaeda in Pakistan. Vinas, now in custody in the United States, pled guilty in January to charges that included conspiracy to commit murder for firing on U.S. troops and providing material support to a terrorist organization. Vinas (who has been cooperating with federal authorities), underwent paramilitary training and attempted a rocket attack against a U.S. military base in Afghanistan. After his capture in November 2008, Vinas admitted meeting senior Al Qaeda personnel and giving them detailed information for an attack on the Long Island Rail Road.
- Illinois Federal Building. On September 23, Michael Finton was arrested and charged with attempting to use a truck bomb to blow up the federal building in Springfield, Illinois. After Finton was arrested on a parole violation in August 2007, his writings indicated he had written a letter to convicted terrorist John Walker Lindh, known as the American Taliban. Finton later told the FBI that he "idolized" Lindh, who is serving a federal prison sentence for fighting for the Taliban.
After he was introduced to an undercover FBI agent in February 2009, Finton expressed his desire to receive military training to fight in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia or other locations. In the ensuing months, he decided to blow up the Paul Findley Federal Building and Courthouse in Springfield and conducted surveillance for that purpose. He was arrested by the FBI immediately after he tried to detonate what he thought was a one-ton bomb in a van.
- New York City. On September 23, a federal grand jury in New York indicted terror suspect Najibullah Zazi for conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction.
Zazi allegedly had been recruited by Al Qaeda and received detailed bomb-making instructions in Pakistan. He was trained in making bombs from relatively common household supplies – possibly for an attack on the New York subway system around the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Officials have described the plot as the most serious terror threat since 9/11.
According to the government's detention motion, "Zazi remained committed to detonating an explosive device up until the date of his [September 19] arrest, as exemplified by among other things, traveling overseas to receive bomb-making instructions, conducting extensive research on the Internet regarding components of explosive devices" and purchasing other explosives and traveling "to New York City on September 10, 2009 in furtherance of the criminal plan."
- Dallas skyscraper. Hosam Smadi, a Jordanian citizen, was arrested September 24 and charged with attempting to blow up the 60-story Fountain Place office tower in Dallas. The government alleges that Smadi, a restaurant worker, tried to detonate what he thought was a truck bomb in the parking garage under the building.
The government's criminal complaint in the case includes an FBI affidavit stating that Smadi was discovered by the FBI "within an online group of extremists." Smadi is alleged to have declared his intention to serve as a soldier for Osama Bin Laden and to have said that blowing up the building would "shake the currently weak economy in the state and the American nation."
- Quantico Marine Corps base. On September 24 the Justice Department announced that a federal grand jury in North Carolina returned a superseding indictment against Daniel Patrick Boyd, Hysen Sherifi and Zakariya Boyd, charging them with plotting to kill U.S. military personnel. The indictment alleges that Daniel Patrick Boyd undertook reconnaissance of the Marine Corps Base at Quantico, Virginia and obtained maps of the base with the intention of planning an attack.
An earlier indictment in July charged Boyd and the other North Carolina terror suspects with material support for terrorism. The indictment alleged that Daniel Boyd is a veteran of terrorist training camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan and that he had traveled from the United States to Israel in the hope of engaging in violent jihad but returned to the U.S. after failing in his efforts. Read more here.
- U.S. troops in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Balkans. On September 24 an indictment was unsealed in federal court on charging Betim Kaziu, a U.S. citizen and Brooklyn resident, of conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country and conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists.
The U.S. government charges that during the course of his terrorist plot, Kaziu attempted to travel to Afghanistan, Iraq and the Balkans to fight against U.S. armed forces. Kaziu also went to Egypt where he attempted to purchase weapons and tried to join al-Shabaab.
- Shopping malls, government officials, and U.S. troops. On October 21, federal agents charged Tarek Mehanna of Massachusetts with providing material support to terrorists, conspiracy to kill in a foreign country, and making false statements to a law enforcement officer.
According to an affidavit signed by FBI Special Agent Heidi Williams, Mehanna traveled to Pakistan in 2002 and Yemen in 2004 in unsuccessful attempts to find a terrorist training camp in order to engage in jihad. He and a co-conspirator allegedly plotted to attack U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, to gun down shoppers at a suburban shopping mall and assassinate two unnamed U.S. government officials.
- U.S. government, law enforcement, and the Super Bowl. On October 28, FBI agents shot and killed Detroit imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah as they attempted to arrest him and 10 other men on weapons and conspiracy charges. The FBI said it sought to make the arrest peacefully, but Abdullah fired on them, killing an FBI dog and forcing them to return fire, killing him.
Abdullah was accused of being the ringleader of a radical Muslim separatist movement seeking a state in America governed by Shariah law. He sought to establish a separate sovereign Islamic state to be governed by Jamal Al-Amin, (formerly known as H. Rap Brown), who is currently serving a life sentence after his 2002 conviction of killing a police officer in Georgia. Abdullah converted to Islam after serving prison time for felonious assault and carrying a concealed weapon.
According to the criminal complaint, a former member of Abdullah's group reported that the imam advocated "the spread of Islam through radical jihad." Read the full complaint here and the Department of Justice press release here.
Numerous terrorists were sentenced after convictions in earlier terror plots. Oussama Kassir was sentenced to life in prison on September 15 for providing material support to Al Qaeda. This assistance included establishment of a jihadist training camp in Bly, Oregon. Five radical Islamists were sentenced for plotting to bomb the U.S. military base at Fort Dix, N.J. Four of the men received life sentences, and the fifth, 33 years. In October, three Toledo, Ohio-area men were sentenced to terms ranging from 8 to 20 years for crimes that included plotting to kill U.S. troops in Iraq.
In Atlanta, a federal judge sentenced Eshanu Sadequee to 17 years in prison on December 14 for his role in a conspiracy to help the Pakistani group Lashkar-e-Taiba and to scout attack targets in the United States. Sadequee's fellow defendant, Haris Ahmed, received a 13-year sentence. Five Miami-area men received sentences ranging from seven to 13½ years in prison for providing material support to Al Qaeda. The men considered mounting attacks on the Sears Tower in Chicago and an FBI building in Florida. On May 27, U.S. District Judge Jorge Solis sentenced five leaders of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF) to prison terms ranging from 15 to 65 years for providing support to Hamas.