Massachusetts man charged with conspiring to attack US mall, kill Iraq troops

Thursday, October 22, 2009

United States officials have said that a 27-year-old man in the northeastern state of Massachusetts has been arrested and charged with plotting acts of terrorism, including plans to kill people at a shopping mall and to kill US government employees.

Location of Massachusetts in map of United States
Image: Huebi.

Acting US Attorney Michael Loucks said on Wednesday that Tarek Mehanna has been charged with conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists. According to Loucks, Mehanna and his co-conspirators had multiple discussions about obtaining automatic weapons for the mall attack, but that the plan was abandoned because they could not obtain anything more than handguns.

He added that Mehanna discussed other plots, including wanting to kill two members of the Executive Branch of the US government.

Prosecutors have alleged that Mehanna and his conspirators discussed their desire for a "violent jihad against American interests," including US and allied forces in Iraq, and that they talked about their desire to "die on the battlefield." If convicted, Mehanna faces up to fifteen years in prison on the charge of material support of terrorism.

A statement by the Justice Department read that "Mehanna and the co-conspirators had multiple conversations about obtaining automatic weapons and randomly shooting people in a shopping mall, and that the conversations went so far as to discuss the logistics of a mall attack, including coordination, weapons needed and the possibility of attacking emergency responders."

Loucks did not name the two people targeted in the alleged plot against government officials, but said they are no longer members of the Executive Branch and were never in any danger.

The acting attorney said Mehanna began conspiring around 2001 with a man named Ahmad Abousamra and others to provide material support and resources for use in a conspiracy to kill, kidnap, maim or injure persons or damage property in a foreign country. He said Abousamra is now in Syria.

A preliminary trial hearing for his case was held on Wednesday, in which Mehanna did not enter a plea. Mehanna's lawyer, J. W. Carney, who spoke to reporters after the plea was held, didn't say which way Mehanna would plead.

Mehanna had been arrested earlier, in November 2008, accused of lying to investigators regarding one of his contacts, who was suspected to have been in training with al-Qaeda. He was later given bail.