Entries in Terrorist (13)


Terror Sting: California Man Arrested in Taliban Car Bomb Plot

Doug Menuez/Thinkstock(OAKLAND, Calif.) -- Federal agents arrested a California man Friday morning in a terror sting after he allegedly tried to detonate a car bomb at an Oakland bank as part of a Taliban plot.

The FBI said the explosive device that Matthew Aaron Llaneza, 28, of San Jose tried to use was not operable and posed no threat, and that Llaneza's Taliban contact was actually an undercover agent.

According to authorities, in November Llaneza met with a man he believed was linked to the Taliban and the mujahideen in Afghanistan. At their initial meeting, Llaneza allegedly proposed a car-bomb attack against a bank and making the bombing look like the work of anti-government militias. According to the criminal complaint, Llaneza wanted to spark a government crackdown and a right-wing backlash that would lead to civil war.

Llaneza and his Taliban contact, who was really an informant, then allegedly constructed the bomb inside an SUV parked in Hayward, Calif. On the evening of Feb. 7, according to the complaint, Llaneza parked the SUV outside a Bank of America branch on Hegenberger Road in Oakland and then walked to a nearby location, where he met the undercover agent. He was arrested by the South Bay Joint Terrorism Task Force after he allegedly attempted to detonate the bomb via cellphone.

Llaneza appeared before a federal judge in Oakland Friday morning, and will return for a bail hearing on Wednesday, Feb. 13. He is charged with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Former Roommate of Wanted Terrorist Among Two Charged in Terror Case

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Two men from Alabama have been arrested in a terrorism case, including the former roommate of a man on the FBI’s most wanted terrorist list.

Randy Wilson, a.k.a. Rasheed Wilson, and Mohammad Abdul Rahman Abukhdair, both 25 years old, were arrested Tuesday by the FBI for allegedly attempting to travel to Africa to engage in fighting with terrorists groups there. Both were charged with conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists. Abukhdair was also charged with passport fraud.

Wilson is allegedly a close friend and former roommate of Omar Hammami, an American commander in Somalia’s Al Shabaab terrorist group who was recently added to the FBI’s most wanted terrorist list.

Also known as Abu Mansoor al-Amriki, Hammami is the Alabama-raised son of a Southern Baptist mother and a Syrian father. Since arriving in Somalia in 2006, he has acted as a mouthpiece for Al Shabaab, the Somali branch of al Qaeda, but in recent months has released a series of videos claiming that his life was in danger and that he was having difficulties with the terror group.

Hammami was added to the FBI’s most wanted terrorist list last month.

Wilson and Abukhdair allegedly met online during 2010.  Abukhdair is a U.S. citizen originally from Syracuse, N.Y., who had traveled to Egypt from the United States in 2007 but was arrested and detained by Egyptian security forces in 2010 for suspicion of terrorist activity. Abukhdair was eventually deported back to the United States in January 2011 and lived in both Ohio and Alabama.

The FBI used an undercover FBI employee to approach Wilson to learn about his possible motive and interests in terrorist activity.

The criminal complaint alleges that Wilson, Abukhdair and the undercover employee spent numerous hours watching terrorist propaganda, including lectures by Osama bin Laden and Anwar al-Alawki and that the men discussed ways to travel overseas to Somalia or to Sudan to engage in jihad.

According to the criminal complaint, during one Feb. 3, 2012, meeting Abukhdair stated that he was unsure whether he could leave the United States because of his time in Egypt and deportation.

“Abukhdair proposed that they conduct a terrorist attack in the United States instead. Abukhdair said he was losing patience, and inquired about the cost of buying six guns for a domestic attack,” the complaint alleged.

Wilson allegedly told Abukhdair to be patient and to wait for their passports to arrive.

The following day Abukhdair became suspicious that the FBI was watching the men and as they drove to meet the undercover FBI employee they threw their computers and electronic devices off a bridge into Mobile Bay.

The case took an unusual twist as they became more concerned that the FBI was watching them.

“To convince the FBI that they no longer wanted to travel for jihad, Wilson and Abukhdair decided to open a men’s fragrance store. Wilson told the [undercover agent] that even if their passports arrived, they were not going to travel right now. On Feb. 7, 2012, Wilson sold his minivan for $3,900 and used money to rent space for their store,” the criminal complaint alleged.

The FBI affidavit in the case notes that because of a lack of business the store was only open for four months before being closed in July 2012.

According to the criminal complaint the FBI also used an informant who also knew both Wilson and Hammami to get information on Wilson. The informant had previously tried to leave the United States in June 2012, but may have been on the no-fly list and later worked with the FBI as a confidential source on the investigation.

In October 2012, the two finally decided that they should travel to Mauritania, allegedly in hopes of getting to fight in jihad in Mali where al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has recently become more active.

Wilson was arrested Tuesday morning in Atlanta attempting to board a flight that would ultimately take him to Morocco.  Abukhdair was arrested in Augusta, Ga., at a bus terminal for a bus to Canada. The two planned to fly to Morocco before going to Mauritania.

Defense attorneys for Wilson and Abukhdair could not be identified in court records at this time.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Alleged 'Lone Wolf' Terrorist Plotted Attacks on US Soldiers

Picture of alleged terrorist Jose Pimental mixing bomb materials. ABC NewsUPDATE: A New York man, inspired by late al Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, was just an hour away from finishing construction on a bomb meant to assassinate U.S. servicemen returning from war and policemen when he was arrested, investigators said.

(NEW YORK) -- A Muslim convert arrested for allegedly making bombs in New York City was inspired by radical cleric Anwar Awlaki and was allegedly plotting to attack U.S. servicemen and police officers, according to officials.

A five-count criminal complaint against Jose Pimentel of Washington Heights says that Pimentel planned "to build a bomb and use a bomb to assassinate U.S. servicemen and women returning from active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan."

[Click here to read the full criminal complaint]

New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg said during a press conference Sunday evening that Pimentel, who's unemployed and lives with his mother, also wanted to kill police officers, and called him a "27-year-old al Qaeda sympathizer."

"We had to act quickly," New York police commissioner Ray Kelly said, "because he was in fact putting this bomb together."

When arrested, officials say, Pimentel possessed the materials necessary to build a bomb.

He allegedly manufactured a bomb on his mother's couch following the directions in the article "How to Build a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom," from al Qaeda's English-language online magazine Inspire.  Radical U.S.-born cleric Anwar Awlaki was a contributor to the magazine.

"He was a reader of al Qaeda's online magazine Inspire and inspire him it did," Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance said.

Officials say Pimentel is apparently a "lone wolf" with no known connection to any foreign terrorists or local radicalized individuals.

"He was not part of a larger conspiracy," Bloomberg said.

Kelly said Pimentel was inspired to act by the death of Awlaki, who was killed in a U.S. strike in Yemen earlier this year.

A duplicate of the bomb Pimentel was allegedly building was detonated by police on a police range and blew apart a car.  Charges against Pimentel include criminal possession of a weapon and conspiracy in the fourth degree as a crime of terrorism.

At his arraignment Sunday night, he was ordered held without bail.

An American citizen, Pimentel was born in the Dominican Republic and came to the United States at age 8.  After converting to Islam, he went by the name Muhammed Yusef.

Pimentel spent much of his time on the Internet, according to sources, and maintained a radical website called TrueIslam1.  The website contains a link to the bomb-making article in Inspire.

Pimentel first came to the attention of authorities in May 2009, when he was living in Schenectady, N.Y.  He returned to New York City in January 2010.  Authorities say they have been tailing him for more than a year.

He has a prior arrest for criminal possession of stolen property.

Pimentel rarely left his home, authorities said, except to buy coffee and cigarettes -- one cigarette at a time, when he couldn't afford a pack -- and to smoke.  His mother did not let him smoke in the apartment.

He also smoked marijuana and drank, according to authorities, and attended Muslim religious services infrequently.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Officials Thought They Might Kill Anwar Al-Awlaki on 9/11 Anniversary

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- “This is a great day for America,” says a senior administration official, pleased with the news that terrorist leader Anwar al-Awlaki was killed Friday.

The Yemeni government on Friday announced that an operation launched shortly before 10 a.m. in Yemen targeted and killed the New Mexico-born cleric -- a missile hitting him approximately five miles from the town of Khashef, 87 miles east of the capital Sana’a.

Senior administration officials say that the U.S. has been targeting Awlaki for months, though in recent weeks officials were able to pin down his location.

“They were waiting for the right opportunity to get him away from any civilians,” a senior administration official tells ABC News.

In fact, there was a flurry of activity on the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

As President Obama shuttled between Shanksville, Penn., New York, and the Pentagon, officials “thought they had a good opportunity to hit him,” the official says. “We waited, but it never materialized.”

A senior White House official says Awlaki was “very operational, every day he was plotting, he had very unique skills, and it’s good to get him in Yemen where AQAP” -- al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula -- “is planting the flag.”

Out of deference to the Yemeni government, U.S. officials have been tight-lipped about the precise role the U.S. played, though the Yemeni military does not possess the kind of predator drone said to have killed Awlaki.

The senior White House official tells ABC News: “We’ve had a very intense focus on him.  And once we decide to put resources on one of these guys, I’d hate to be one of them.  Unless you’re literally in a cave, which is where we think (Ayman al-) Zawahiri is, any visibility -- and to be operational you have to have that, so one phone call, one email, one car ride -- and you’re found.”

In early February 2010 -- fewer than two months after failed Christmas Day underwear bomber Umar Faruq Abdulmuttalab, who had links to Awlaki, tried to strike -- the National Security Staff put out an early directive saying Awlaki is a valid target for killing.  Since the cleric was an American citizen, administration lawyers vetted the argument, ultimately concluding that Awlaki was a viable target since he cannot be captured.

Since then, Awlaki has been tied to Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan of November 2009. Failed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad, who tried to strike in May 2010, said he was inspired by Awlaki.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Feds: Al-Shabaab Terror Recruiter Extradited to US

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- After nearly two years in custody abroad, a Minnesota man charged with recruiting Americans to join the ranks of an al Qaeda-linked Somali terror group has been brought back to face trial, the Department of Justice announced Monday.

Mahamud Said Omar, formerly of Minneapolis, was indicted in Aug. 2009 for allegedly conspiring "with others to provide financial assistance as well as personnel to al-Shabaab."  Al-Shabaab, an Islamic militant group linked to al Qaeda, has claimed at least one deadly, high-profile attack in Uganda during the 2010 World Cup, and is suspected of planning to expand its operations to attacks on the U.S. homeland.

According to prosecutors, the arrest of 45-year-old Omar came out of "Operation Rhino," described as an "investigation that focused on the disappearance of young ethnic Somali men who lived in the Minneapolis area and were ultimately found to have been recruited to fight with al-Shabaab back in Somalia."  Omar is accused of not only recruiting the young men, but also providing them financial assistance to acquire weapons and travel to Somalia for training.  Though born in Somalia, Omar was given permanent resident status in the U.S. in 1994.

Once in Somalia, the "travelers" were housed in al-Shabaab safe houses and trained by senior al-Shabaab and al Qaeda members.  Omar was tracked down and arrested in the Netherlands in November 2009.  After being held for months, he was extradited and appeared in federal court in Minneapolis Monday.

Omar's appearance in court coincided with the appearance of a new video from al Qaeda's new commander, Ayman al-Zawahiri, in which he urged al Qaeda followers to launch attacks on the U.S. to avenge the death of the group's former leader, Osama bin Laden.

"America today is staggering... Hunt her down wherever you may encounter her. Hunt her down to cut what is left of her corruption's tail," Zawahiri says in the video, posted online Monday.  "Hunt her down until history says that a murderous country spread corruption in the earth so God sent his faithful to her to make an example out of her."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Homegrown Terrorist Convicted, Inspired by Al Qaeda's Anwar al-Awlaki

USDJ(NEW YORK) -- A New York man who was inspired by al Qaeda internet videos to carry out attacks on U.S. troops abroad was convicted on terrorism charges Thursday.

Betim Kaziu, from Brooklyn, became radicalized in part by watching internet videos featuring Anwar al-Awlaki, one of al Qaeda's most high profile commanders, as well as fighters from Somalia's al Qaeda affiliate, al-Shabaab, according to the FBI.

Kaziu was convicted of several charges including conspiring to commit murder overseas and conspiring to provide material support to terrorists.

According to the government’s account, in 2009 Kaziu and another man, Sulejah Hadzovic, traveled from New York to Cairo, Egypt, where they attempted to acquire automatic weapons.

From there, Kaziu considered traveling to Somalia to join al-Shabaab but instead went to Albania where he recorded a martyrdom video of his "last few moments." From Albania, Kaziu traveled to Kosovo where the FBI said he planned to carry out attacks against U.S. troops, but instead was arrested in September 2009. By then, he had already purchased a ticket to travel to Pakistan.

"[Kaziu] made these trips with the full intention of joining a jihadist group to kill U.S. soldiers overseas," Department of Justice spokesperson Dean Boyd told ABC News.

In the midst of their travels, however, his friend Hadzovic got cold feet, returned to the U.S. and eventually became the primary witness in Kaziu’s trial where he gave "damning testimony," according to the FBI.

Kaziu's sentencing hearing is scheduled for Nov. 4, where he could face life in prison.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Pentagon Bomb Scare: Is Suspect a Lone-Wolf Terrorist?

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- An international investigation is underway into whether the Marine Corps Reserve lance corporal who was arrested on Friday for carrying suspected bomb making materials near the Pentagon is simply an unstable, misguided young man, or a cold-blooded lone wolf terrorist.

"We don't know what a lone wolf, al Qaeda-inspired operative looks like. We don't know where they hang out, we don't know really what motivates them," former FBI agent Jack Cloonan said. "So when you don't know that, you've got a talent pool of people that is so huge, it stresses law enforcement. We just don't know what they look like and what they want to do."

The United States was lucky in this incident, because police were able to arrest the man in question, Ethiopian-American Yonathan Melaku, 22, who was recently charged with breaking into 27 cars in suburban Washington.

FBI investigators have been dissecting Melaku's life since his arrest, but as of yet have found no links to terrorist organizations, although he was carrying pro-al Qaeda literature.

But while he may have been acting alone, the recent appearance of a "hit list" on a jihadi web site that names 40 prominent figures from government, the U.S. military and the media who should be attacked, has officials concerned about people who might have no formal links to al Qaeda but still be inspired by their rhetoric.

According to a bulletin circulated by the FBI, the hit list appeared on the website Ansar al-Mujahideen after one poster highlighted Al Qaeda leader Adam Gadahn's call in a June 3 message for lone wolf attacks on American public figures and corporate institutions.

Melaku was arrested around 2 a.m. Friday, when an army policeman confronted him at Arlington Cemetery. Police say they found four zip-lock bags with a substance labeled ammonium nitrate, a key bomb-making material, in his backpack. Also inside were spent 9mm ammunition and a notebook containing the words "al qaeda," "Taliban rules," "mujahidin" and "defeated coalition forces," according to police.

Searches of Melaku's home and car turned up no explosives, and the material in Melaku's backpack tested negative as a potential explosive, sources said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Forty Names Appear on Terrorists' Hit List

Thinkstock/Comstock(WASHINGTON) -- The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security have alerted law enforcement about a terrorist "hit list" that was posted on a jihadi website and names 40 prominent figures from government, the U.S. military and the media who should be attacked.

Among the names on the hit list, which includes photographs of the targets and biographical information, are a member of Congress, Pentagon officials, a conservative pundit, executives of an American company involved in the production of drone aircraft, and two prominent French executives.

According to a bulletin circulated by the FBI, the hit list appeared on the website Ansar al-Mujahideen after one poster highlighted al Qaeda leader Adam Gadahn's call in a June 3 message for lone wolf attacks on American public figures and corporate institutions. "In response to the original posting," says the U.S. government's intelligence bulletin, "other forum members posted the names of over 40 heads of government, industry and media as potential targets." One forum member suggested that booby-trapped parcels be sent to the home addresses of those on the list.

"Though there has been an increase in postings on extremist web forums since [Osama bin Laden's] death on 2 May 2011, these examples are the most target specific threat postings in the forum since that date," says the bulletin. "The depth and breadth of the list provided...represent a familiarity with defense and intelligence contractors and private sector support."

An FBI official who reviewed the notice said the threats were mostly aspirational and described the item as a "wish list" of targets. DHS and the FBI circulated the notice to law enforcement out of an abundance of caution because posters on the website were making threats on a publicly available forum.

In a statement, DHS spokesman Chris Ortman said, "A DHS Open Source Information Report about an online posting by a user of an Arabic-language violent jihadist forum, which listed specific individuals and businesses that the user believed were legitimate targets, was disseminated by the Office of Intelligence & Analysis.

"While we have no information of any imminent terrorist threat to the United States or any U.S. persons, as always, we urge federal, state and local law enforcement, as well as the general public, to maintain increased vigilance for indications of preoperational or suspicious activity," said Ortman.

In Gadahn's June 3 video, he calls on Muslims living in America to carry out deadly one-man terrorist acts using fully automatic weapons purchased at gun shows, and to target major institutions and public figures.

"What are you waiting for?" asks Gadahn in English, and then adds that jihadis shouldn't worry about getting caught, since so many have been released. "Over these past few years, I've seen the release of many, many Mujahideen whom I had never even dreamed would regain their freedom."

Called "Do Not Rely on Others, Take the Task Upon Yourself" and produced by al Qaeda's media arm, as Sahab, the tape mixes Gadahn's new message with clips from old videos of Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and other al Qaeda leaders praising one-man attacks. They call on jihadis in the West to carry out lone wolf operations.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Amtrak Steps Up Security Following Iowa Train Sabotage

Spencer Platt/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Amtrak says it is taking additional security countermeasures after someone tried to derail a train carrying highly flammable ethanol Sunday in Iowa.

Iowa Interstate Railroad CEO Dennis Miller said a lock was cut off a track switch box just outside Menlo, a town that sits along the rail line between Des Moines, Iowa, and Omaha, Neb. The track was also "gapped open" about 2 inches, and a black bag was used to cover the switch signal so the tampering would be harder to notice. Miller said the switch tampering, and the creation of the gap in the tracks, clearly indicated to him that someone was trying to derail one of the 130-car trains that were running the track last Sunday.

On Capitol Hill Tuesday, Amtrak Chief of Police John O'Connor announced that the company is expanding its comprehensive rail security efforts to provide increased right of way protection to detect and deter terrorists seeking to derail passenger trains. 

O'Connor said threats against rail transportation are very real and "[t]he recent events after the death of [Osama] bin Laden serve as a stark reminder that these threats continue to be viable." He emphasized the terrorists' interest in derailing trains is of particular worry to Amtrak, which "operates high-speed rail trains where catastrophic losses could occur."

Amtrak said the additional security countermeasures would focus first on passenger trains, particularly those operating on the Amtrak-owned Northeast corridor. Amtrak said it already had security in place, which were focused on the threat of improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, in a station or on a train, or on an active shooter scenario.

Protecting stations is difficult, but protecting thousands of miles of train track is even more challenging, O'Connor said. Historically, Amtrak has used a range of security strategies, such as high security fencing, bollards, blast curtains, access control and technologically driven initiatives to protect stations, bridges and tunnels. Amtrak is exploring the expanded use of these strategies for right of way protection.

Since the U.S. raid on the bin Laden compound in Pakistan, Amtrak has bolstered track security actions, expanded patrols and reinforced employee awareness programs, O'Connor said. Journals found in bin Laden's compound after he was killed contained evidence of al Qaeda's desire to target trains and subways in the United States.

The FBI is now investigating the Iowa incident, but Bureau sources said early indications are that the incident is not a terrorism related.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Iowa Authorities Investigating Train Sabotage

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(MENLO, Iowa) -- Authorities are on alert after someone apparently attempted to derail a train carrying highly flammable ethanol near the west-central Iowa city of Menlo in recent days.

“Someone could have been killed," Dennis Miller, the CEO of Iowa Interstate Railroad, told ABC News. “Ethanol won’t explode,” he said, “but it will burn.” The trains running along those tracks, he said, often carry flammable ethanol, which they load at a nearby ethanol plant.  Each train can carry up to 30,000 gallons of ethanol, “And 30,000 gallons would burn for a long time.”

Miller said a lock was cut off a track switch and track was “gapped open” about two inches. A black bag was used to cover the switch signal so the tampering would be harder to notice, he said.

Miller said the switch tampering, and the creation of the gap in the tracks, clearly indicate to him that someone was trying to derail one of the 130-car trains that were running the track last Sunday.

The railroad’s chief operating officer, Mick Burkart, said a train did successfully cross the track at the damaged switch Sunday night, but the crew noticed that something was wrong with the track and switch. They reported it to the Iowa railroad, and all traffic was shut down on the track.

The FBI is now investigating, but a Bureau source told ABC News that early indications are that the incident is not a terrorism-related.

Following the killing of Osama bin Laden in May, investigators discovered a handwritten journal kept by the al Qaeda leader that specifically noted an interest in derailing trains.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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