Published October 21, 2009
The pharmacy college graduate student charged with plotting to kill U.S. soldiers in Iraq and shoppers in American malls was thwarted -- along with two other co-conspirators -- when he was unable to get into terror camps for training and failed to get access to automatic weapons.
Tarek Mehanna, 27, of Sudbury, Mass., got rebellious in court Wednesday, refusing to stand for the judge and at one point throwing his chair.
FBI officials said Mehanna worked with others from 2001 to May of 2008 in a conspiracy to "kill, kidnap, main or injure" people in foreign countries, and to kill prominent U.S. politicians. Terror plots to attack U.S. shopping malls and U.S. military in Iraq were also in the works, officials said.
Mehanna initially refused to stand for the judge before the terror charge against him was read at the brief hearing Wednesday. He finally did stand — tossing his chair loudly to the floor — only after his father urged him to do so.
A detention and probable cause hearing was set for Oct. 30.
The complaint further alleges that the co-conspirators attempted to radicalize others and inspire each other by, among other things, watching and distributing jihadi videos.
The charges accuse the suspects of talking about their desire to participate in Islamist holy war and of their desire to die on the battlefield.
The case comes less than a month after an Afghan-born man, Najibullah Zazi, was accused of plotting a bomb attack against the United States.
Federal prosecutors say Mehanna and his conspirators planned the logistics of a mall attack — including the possibility of attacking emergency responders. However, authorities say the plot was not carried out because they could not get automatic weapons.
"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," the Justice Department said.
Mehanna's attorney J.W. Carney Jr. did not immediately return calls for comment.
If convicted on the material support charge, Mehanna faces up to 15 years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine, the Justice Department said.
Mehanna was arrested in November 2008 for allegedly lying to authorities about the whereabouts of a man who trained with Al Qaeda members with the goal of overthrowing the Somali government.
In December 2006, Mehanna got a phone call from American Daniel Maldonado, who urged Mehanna to join him in Somalia, where he was training for jihad.
But when interviewed by FBI a few days later, he told FBI that Maldonado was in Egypt working for a Web site.
The FBI also interviewed Mehanna about a trip he and two othes made to Yemen in 2004.
The Associated Press and Fox News' Mike Levine contributed to this report.