Seven men have been arrested for allegedly plotting to attack the Sears Tower in Chicago, the FBI headquarters in Miami and other U.S. buildings.
The suspects, described as “homegrown terrorists” by U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, allegedly sought to obtain funding and support for the plot from a government informant posing as a member of the terrorist group Al Qaeda.
Six of the suspects were arrested in Miami, and a seventh was arrested in Atlanta on June 22, 2006. Five are U.S. citizens, one a legal permanent resident and one is Haitian national in the country illegally, according to the Justice Department.
The suspects are accused of conspiring to provide material support to Al Qaeda; conspiring to provide material support and resources to terrorists; conspiring to maliciously damage and destroy buildings by means of an explosive; and conspiring to levy war against the United States government.
Narseal Batiste, the group’s apparent leader, started recruiting the others to “organize and train for a mission to wage war against the U.S. government,” in November 2005, according to the indictment.
In February, Batiste allegedly told the informant that he wanted to attend Al Qaeda training with five others so they could “kill all the devils we can” in an attack that would “be just as good or greater than 9/11.”
The suspects took photographs and video of the FBI field office in Miami Beach as well as the federal courthouse complex, detention center and clerks office in downtown Miami. According to the indictment, members of the group asked the informant to provide machine guns, boots, uniforms and vehicles. However, the group never developed the capability to launch any of the terrorist attacks they planned, authorities said.
In addition to Batiste, the other six defendants identified in the indictment are Patrick Abraham, Stanley Grant Phanor, Naudimar Herrera, Burson Augustin, Lyglenson Lemorin and Rotschild Augustine. Each of the suspects, reportedly between the ages of 22 and 32, allegedly swore an oath of loyalty to Al Qaeda.
The group met at a Liberty City warehouse; the men reportedly told neighbors that they were starting a children’s karate class in the building.
A man claiming to be affiliated with the group told CNN that five of his fellow members were among those arrested and that they had no connection to terrorists. Identified as Brother Corey, the man said the group called itself “Seas of David.”
If convicted, the defendants each face a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison on the charges of conspiracy to provide material support or resources. The defendants also face a maximum of 20 years in prison on each charge of conspiracy to destroy buildings by use of explosives and conspiracy to levy war against the United States.