By Laura Crimaldi and Laurel J. Sweet Wednesday, October 21, 2009 -
A 27-year-old man from Sudbury has been arrested on charges he planned terrorism attacks inside and outside the United States, including a plot to use automatic weapons to open fire at shoppers and emergency responders in shopping malls, federal prosecutors said today.
Tarek Mehanna, of 6 Fairhaven Circle, is accused of conspiring with Ahmad Abousamra and others to obtain the automatic weapons needed to carry out a mall ambush in which they planned to open fire at random, said Acting U.S. Attorney Michael K. Loucks. Mehanna was already out on bail from a federal arrest last year, charged with lying during a terrorism probe.
Mehanna was arrested at his home at 6 a.m. this morning and booked at the Sudbury police station before being turned over to federal authorities. Federal agents have searched Mehanna’s home and say he is a U.S. citizen. A bail hearing has been scheduled for 1:30 p.m. in federal court.
Abousamra left the United States for Syria on Dec. 26, 2006, officials said. He said he would be back within a month after visiting his wife, but has never returned, officials said.
“At this time we don’t believe there are any active terrorist cells in this area,” said FBI special-agent-in-charge Warren T. Bamford.
The plot included plans to fire at emergency responders, but was abandoned because the men could not obtain the weapons, authorities said. They declined to name the mall or malls the men were targeting.
“We live in a free country. We don’t live in a police state. We do have places where if someone wants to do a terrorist act they can probably accomplish it,” said Loucks at a press conference. “We do our best. It’s amazing it hasn’t happened yet.”
Prosecutors also allege the men discussed participating in violent Jihad against American interests and their desire to die on the “battlefield.” The crimes are alleged to have taken place between 2001 and 2008.
Mehanna and Abousamra are also accused of traveling to Yemen in 2004 to find a terrorist training camp and learn how to engage in jihad, officials said.
Sudbury police chief Richard Glavin said he expects residents to be surprised by the development. There had been no calls for service to Mehanna’s home, where he lives with his parents, he said.
“I’m sure that people are concerned and alarmed,” said Glavin. “Regardless of where this occurred, in Sudbury or in other communities, this is obviously of concern to everyone.”
Mehanna was charged with lying to FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force investigators last year during a probe into whether Daniel Maldonado was participating in al-Qaeda training in Somalia. He was arrested in November 2008 at Logan International Airport while boarding a plane to Saudi Arabia for that offense. He was out on bail from that arrest when he was apprehended this morning.
In that case, FBI investigators interviewed Mehanna on Dec. 16, 2006, according to a federal complaint. The FBI alleges Mehanna knew Maldonado was training for jihad in Somalia. Further, the complaint states Maldonado was encouraging Mehanna to join him there.
Mehanna told the FBI Maldonado was working for a Web site in Egypt and had infrequent contact with him, the complaint states. The FBI asserted Maldonado had contacted Mehanna three times from Somalia on Dec. 12, 2006.
Maldonado was arrested in February 2007 near the Somalia border by Kenyan authorities on charges he trained at al-Qaeda camps in Somalia, the complaint states.
- This is the fifth attempted terror attack in the US in about 90 days. THANK GOD FOR OUR ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES!!! How long before one of these become succesful?