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A Series of Terror Plots Foiled in September 2009

Posted: October 7, 2009

A series of terrorist plots foiled in the span of one week illustrate the continuing threat against the United States posed by those motivated by radical interpretations of Islam. During the week of September 21, several men were charged in separate plots to bomb a federal building, a 60-story skyscraper, a major city's transit system and a U.S. military base.


On September 23, federal authorities arrested Illinois resident Michael Finton for attempting to bomb the federal courthouse in Springfield. An undercover FBI officer posing as a low-level Al Qaeda operative provided Finton with inert explosives, which he planted in front of the Paul Findley Federal Building and Courthouse. Finton, a U.S. citizen who converted to Islam in prison, allegedly stated that an attack on American soil would force the U.S. government to pull American troops and resources from Iraq and Afghanistan and curtail its financial support of Israel.


In a similar investigation unrelated to Finton's case, authorities arrested a Jordanian national on September 24 for attempting to bomb a Dallas skyscraper. Like Finton, Hosam Maher Husein Smadi was provided with inactive explosive devices by undercover federal agents posing as members of Al Qaeda. Smadi, who expressed his intention to serve Osama bin Laden, allegedly planted the device beneath a 60-story glass office tower.


In conversations with an undercover agent, Smadi expressed his desire to attack the U.S. in part for its incursions in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to court documents. He initially planned his attack against the Dallas skyscraper to coincide with the anniversary of the September 11 attacks, though he later decided to wait to carry out his plan until after the conclusion of Ramadan.


The arrests of Finton and Smadi coincide with a separate investigation of a shuttle driver at the Denver International Airport suspected of plotting to detonate homemade bombs on New York City commuter trains. Najibullah Zazi, a U.S. permanent resident from Afghanistan who recently moved to Colorado from New York, was charged on September 24 with conspiracy to detonate explosives in the U.S.


Prosecutors allege that Zazi, who previously received weapons and explosives training at an Al Qaeda facility in Pakistan, purchased a large quantity of beauty products that contain the components needed to make hydrogen peroxide-based bombs. Attorney General Eric Holder described the plot as "one of the most serious terrorist threats to our country since September 11, 2001."


The same day that prosecutors filed the indictment against Zazi, they unsealed an indictment against Betim Kaziu, a U.S. citizen from Brooklyn suspected of attempting to join a terrorist group and fight against American forces in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Balkans. In February, Kaziu traveled to Cairo, Egypt, where he allegedly sought to continue on to Pakistan for military training and attempted to join Al Shabaab, a U.S.-designated terrorist group with links to Al Qaeda. Kaziu also attempted to purchase weapons, which prosecutors allege he intended to use against U.S. forces.

In addition to the plots, a superseding indictment against the alleged ringleader of a group of North Carolina residents indicted on terror-related charges was returned on September 24.  The indictment revealed that the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia, may have also been eyed as the target of a possible terror attack. Daniel Patrick Boyd, who was charged with conspiring to murder U.S. military personnel, allegedly obtained maps of the Quantico base to plan an attack and possessed armor piercing ammunition to "attack the Americans."

Military institutions have been targeted on several other occasions in 2009. In May, four New York residents plotted to destroy military aircraft at the New York Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, New York. The plot also targeted Jewish institutions, where the men, like Finton and Smadi, planted inert explosives given to them by an undercover informant. The following month, Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, an American convert to Islam, shot two uniformed American soldiers at an Arkansas military recruiting center. At that time, Muhammad warned that other Muslims in the U.S. "are going to attack."


The planned terror attacks in Texas and Illinois are the latest in a series of plots within the U.S. conspired by those who have expressed a hatred of Israel and Jews. Michael Finton, who allegedly stated ambitions to join Palestinian terrorist organizations like Hamas or Islamic Jihad and fight against Israel, projected that an attack on American soil would force the U.S. government to curtail its financial support of Israel. Hosam Smadi espoused a similar hatred for Israel and Jews, calling for the "destruction of the Jews" and seeking to kill the Jews as retribution for Israel's activities in Gaza.

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