Federal agents posing as potential terrorists and munitions sellers arrested a Georgia man in a plot to blast his way into the West Wing of the White House with an anti-tank rocket, according to court papers and prosecutors.
Hasher Jallal Taheb, 21, of Cummings, Georgia, met with undercover agents on Wednesday and traded his car for semi-automatic assault rifles, remote-controlled explosives and grenades, and an anti-tank rocket, according to an FBI affidavit.
He planned to blow out a door of the West Wing to gain entry, using as many weapons as possible to inflict carnage, court papers said. He also told at least one agent that he wanted to fire a rocket at the Statue of Liberty, the FBI said.
Unbeknownst to Taheb, the weapons he received on the back of a tractor-trailer had been rendered inert by the FBI. He was arrested within moments of “obtaining” the weaponry, according to prosecutors.
“It is important to point out that this investigation and arrest were the direct result of a tip from the community, another example of how important it is to contact law enforcement if you see or hear something suspicious,” said Chris Hacker, special agent in charge of the FBI in Atlanta.
Snow and sleet from Winter Storm Avery covers the ground at the White House on Nov. 15, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images)
It wasn’t immediately clear whether Taheb had an attorney who could comment on the allegations, the Associated Press reported.
The tipster alerted authorities that Taheb had recently become radicalized, changed his name and planned to travel abroad, the FBI affidavit said.
The affidavit says Taheb told a confidential FBI source in October that he planned to travel abroad for “hijra,” which the agent wrote refers to traveling to territory controlled by the Islamic State. Because he didn’t have a passport, he couldn’t travel abroad and told the FBI source that he wanted to carry out an attack in the U.S. against the White House and the Statue of Liberty.
Federal authorities say Taheb appears to have acted as a lone wolf in the plan.
“All potential threats have been neutralized and under control from the inception of this case. Again, I want to clarify that there were no threats posed to any targets located in Northern District of Georgia, nor was the upcoming Super Bowl a target of his alleged activity,” said Byung J. “BJay” Pak, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia.
He met with the undercover agent and the FBI source multiple times last month and was also in frequent contact using an encrypted messaging application, the affidavit says.
During one meeting with the agent and the source, Taheb “advised that if they were to go to another country, they would be one of many, but if they stayed in the United States, they could do more damage,” the affidavit says. Taheb “explained that jihad was an obligation, that he wanted to do as much damage as possible, and that he expected to be a ‘martyr,’ meaning he expected to die during the attack.”
At another meeting, Taheb showed the undercover agent a hand-drawn diagram of the ground floor of the West Wing and detailed a plan for attack, the affidavit says. He asked the undercover agent to obtain the weapons and explosives needed to carry out the attack, and they discussed selling or exchanging their cars to pay for them.
Taheb told the undercover agent they needed a “base” where they could regroup and where he could record a video to motivate people: “He stated he would be the narrator, clips of oppressed Muslims would be shown, and American and Israeli flags would be burned in the background.”
Taheb said they would approach the White House from the back road, causing a distraction for police and proceed to use an anti-tank weapon to blow open a door and then take down as many people and do as much damage as possible, the affidavit says.
Taheb is charged with attempting to damage or destroy a building owned by the United States using fire or an explosive.
via USA TODAY