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Sears Tower Plotters ‘Gave Lives To Allah’

From the DNC’s Associated Press:

Terror Suspects Sought Ties With al-Qaida

By MICHAEL J. SNIFFEN, 06.23.2006, 12:55 PM

Seven young men arrested in an alleged plot against the Sears Tower were part of a group of "homegrown terrorists" who sought to work with al-Qaida but ended up conspiring with an informant, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Friday.

Outlining an alleged plot to bomb the Sears Tower in Chicago and a federal building in Miami, Gonzales told a Justice Department news conference: "They were persons who for whatever reason came to view their home country as the enemy."

Gonzales stressed that "there was no immediate threat" in either Chicago or Miami because the group didn’t have the materials it was seeking. FBI Deputy Director John Pistole concurred: "This group was more aspirational than operational."

The seven individuals – ranging in age from 22 to 32 – were indicted by a federal grand jury in Miami. Six were taken into custody in Miami Thursday when authorities swarmed a warehouse in the Liberty City area, removing a metal door with a blow torch. A seventh was arrested in Atlanta.

The alleged terrorists – five U.S. citizens, a legal immigrant from Haiti and a Haitian national who was in this country illegally – were expected to appear in federal court in Miami later Friday. They had taken an oath to al-Qaida and sought help from someone they believed was a member of the terrorist organization, the indictment alleged.

Said Gonzales: "The convergence of globalization and technology has created a new brand of terrorism. Today terrorist threats come from smaller more loosely defined cells not affiliated with al-Qaida but who are inspired by a violent jihadist message, and left unchecked these homegrown terrorists may prove to be as dangerous as groups like al-Qaida."

Gonzales outlined the contents of an indictment handed up Thursday, which identified Narseal Batiste as having recruited and trained others beginning in November 2005 "for a mission to wage war against the United States government," including a plot to destroy the Sears Tower.

To obtain money and support for their mission, the conspirators sought help from al-Qaida, pledged an oath to the terrorist organization and supported an al-Qaida plot to destroy FBI buildings, the four-count indictment charged.

Batiste met several times in December 2005 with a person purporting to be an al-Qaida member and asked for boots, uniforms, machine guns, radios, vehicles and $50,000 in cash to help him build an "’Islamic Army’ to wage jihad’," the indictment said. It said that Batiste said he would use his "soldiers" to destroy the Sears Tower.

Gonzales said "the individual they thought was a member of al-Qaida was present at their meetings and in actuality he was working with the South Florida Joint Terrorism Task Force."

In February 2006, it said, Batiste told the "al-Qaida representative" that he and his five soldiers wanted to attend al-Qaida training and planned a "full ground war" against the United States in order to "kill all the devils we can." His mission would "be just as good or greater than 9/11," the indictment accused Batiste of boasting.

The seven defendants were charged with conspiring to "maliciously damage and destroy by means of an explosive" the FBI building in North Miami Beach and the Sears Tower in Chicago.

They were are also charged with conspiring "to levy war against the government of the United States, and to oppose by force the authority thereof."

At a news conference in Miami, U.S. Attorney R. Alexander Acosta said officials decided to raid the warehouse and make the arrests on Thursday because investigators had sufficient evidence and were confident they had fully developed the case. Acosta said authorities are confident that each arrested member of the cell "had intent to pose a threat."

"You want to go and disrupt cells like this before they acquire the means to accomplish their goals," Acosta said. "This is exactly the kind of case we should be investigating."

Acosta said the group came to law enforcement’s attention when the alleged ringleader, Batiste, approached an individual about waging jihad inside the United States. This unidentified individual went to authorities with that information and later posed as an al-Qaida member, Acosta said.

He would not more fully describe the individual other than to say it was a person "who was working with us."

Residents living near the warehouse said the men taken into custody described themselves as Muslims and had tried to recruit young people to join their group. Tashawn Rose, 29, said they tried to recruit her younger brother and nephew for a karate class.

She said she talked to one of the men about a month ago. "They seemed brainwashed," she said. "They said they had given their lives to Allah."

Residents said FBI agents spent several hours in the neighborhood showing photos of the suspects and seeking information. They said the men had lived in the area for about a year.

Benjamin Williams, 17, said the group sometimes had young children with them. At times, he added, the men "would cover their faces. Sometimes they would wear things on their heads, like turbans."

Managers of the Sears Tower, the nation’s tallest building, said in a statement they speak regularly with the FBI and local law enforcement about terror threats and that Thursday "was no exception."

Security at the 110-floor Sears Tower, a Chicago landmark, was ramped up after the Sept. 11 attacks, and the 103rd-floor skydeck was closed for about a month and a half.

"Law enforcement continues to tell us that they have never found evidence of a credible terrorism threat against Sears Tower that has gone beyond criminal discussions," the statement said.

In Chicago early Friday, people headed to work in the Sears Tower knew about the potential threat but didn’t plan to change their routines.

In addition to Batiste and Augustin the defendants were identified as Patrick Abraham, or "Brother Pat"; Stanley Grant Phanor, or "Brother Sunni"; Naudimar Herrera or "Brother Naudy"; Lyglenson Lemorin, also known as "Brother Levi" or Brother Levi-El"; and Rotschild Augustine, or "Brother Rot."

Lemorin was arrested in Atlanta.

Joseph Phanor, the father of defendant Stanley Grant Phanor, said he didn’t believe "anything they say about" his son being involved in a terrorist plot.

"This boy, he’s not a violent boy. He never got into trouble. … He didn’t want to kill people," the elder Phanor told The Associated Press.

He said his son and his friends studied the Bible together in Miami. "All I know is that they have a construction job there and they have a contract to do some construction job. That’s what he told me," he said.

The person they believed to be an al-Qaida representative gave Batiste a digital video camera, which Batiste said he would use to record pictures of the North Miami Beach FBI building, the indictment said. At a March 26 meeting, it went on, Batiste and Burson Augustin provided the "al-Qaida representative" with photographs of the FBI building, as well as video footage of other Miami government buildings, and discussed the plot to bomb the FBI building.

But on May 24, the indictment said, Batiste told the "al-Qaida representative" that he was experiencing delays "because of various problems within his organization." Batiste said he wanted to continue his mission and his relationship with al-Qaida nonetheless, the document said.

I wonder what these guys have in common?

She said she talked to one of the men about a month ago. "They seemed brainwashed," she said. "They said they had given their lives to Allah."

Some further details from CNN:

FBI detains 7 in domestic terror probe

Friday, June 23, 2006

MIAMI, Florida (CNN) — Seven people are in custody after a sweep by law enforcement authorities in connection with an alleged plot against targets that may have included the Sears Tower, officials told CNN…

Neighbors told CNN the men, who wore turbans, caused no problems but acted oddly.

“All you could do was just see their eyes. They had their whole head wrapped up. Just the eyes showing. And they were standing guard — one here, one there — like soldiers. Very quiet,” one woman said.

A man said the men never spoke to neighbors and would just nod their heads if spoken to.

“They was acting like they was in military training,” he said.

Residents living near the warehouse told The Associated Press that the men taken into custody called themselves Muslims and had tried to recruit young people.

The men slept in the warehouse, Tashawn Rose, 29, told the AP.

“They would come out late at night and exercise,” she said. “It seemed like a military boot camp that they were working on there. They would come out and stand guard.”

The residents told the AP that FBI agents spent several hours seeking information from people in the neighborhood. They said the suspects, who appeared to be in their teens or 20s, had lived in the area for about a year, the AP reported…

They had been living there and acting like this for a year, and nobody thought to report them to the local authorities?

I guess that would have been “profiling.”

And I sure hope nobody monitored their phone calls.

This article was posted by Steve on Friday, June 23rd, 2006. Comments are currently closed.

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