7 arrests in U.S. terror probe

Posted in Terrorism | 23-Jun-06 | Source: International Herald Tribune

An FBI office in North Miami Beach, Fla.
MIAMI Seven people were arrested Thursday in connection with the early stages of a plot to attack Chicago's Sears Tower and other buildings in the United States, including the FBI office here, a federal law enforcement official said.

As part of the raids tied to the arrests, FBI agents swarmed a warehouse in teh Liberty City area of Miami, using a blowtorch to take off a metal door. One neighbor said the suspects had been sleeping in the warehouse while running what seemed to be a "military boot camp."

The official told The Associated Press the alleged plotters were mainly Americans with no apparent ties to Al Qaeda or other foreign terrorist organizations. He spoke on condition of anonymity so as not to preempt news conferences planned for Friday in Washington and Miami.

The Miami U.S. attorney, R. Alexander Acosta, said in a statement that more details about the probe would be released Friday.

"There is no imminent threat to Miami or any other area because of these operations," said Richard Kolko, spokesman for FBI headquarters in Washington. He declined further comment.

The FBI Director Robert Mueller, questioned about the case during an appearance on CNN's "Larry King Live," said he couldn't offer many details because it was "an ongoing operation."

"We are conducting a number of arrests and searches" in Miami, Mueller said, which were expected to be wrapped up Friday morning.

Managers of the Sears Tower, the nation's tallest building, said in a statement that they speak regularly with the FBI and local law enforcement about terror threats and that Thursday "was no exception."

"Law enforcement continues to tell us that they have never found evidence of a credible terrorism threat against Sears Tower that has gone beyond criminal discussions," the statement said.

Residents living near the warehouse said the men taken into custody described themselves as Muslims and had tried to recruit young people to join their apparently militaristic group.

A man calling himself Brother Corey and claiming to be a member of the group told CNN that the individuals who worship at the building call themselves the "Seas of David."

He dismissed any suggestion that the men were contemplating violence. "We are peaceful," he said. He added that the group studies the Bible and has "soldiers" in Chicago, but is not a terrorist organization.

Residents said FBI agents spent several hours in the neighborhood showing photos of the suspects and seeking information. They said the men, who appeared to be in their teens or 20s, had lived in the area about a year.

The men slept in the warehouse, said Tashawn Rose, 29. "They would come out late at night and exercise. It seemed like a military boot camp that they were working on there. They would come out and stand guard."

She talked to one of the men about a month ago: "They seemed brainwashed. They said they had given their lives to Allah."

Rose said the men tried to recruit her younger brother and nephew for a karate class. "It was weird," she said.

Benjamin Williams, 17, said the group sometimes had young children with them. At times, he added, the men "would cover their faces. Sometimes they would wear things on their heads, like turbans."

Xavier Smith, who attends the nearby United Christian Outreach, said the men would often come by the church and ask for water.

"They were very private," said Smith, 33.

Share

Comments