Jihad plot: 2 US men charged

2010-06-06 19:52

New York - Two men were charged on Sunday with conspiracy to kill Americans abroad after allegedly vowing "to slice up" troops in "a thousand pieces", US officials said, in the nation's latest terror probe.

Mohamed Alessa, 20, and Carlos Almonte, 24, were detained late on Saturday at New York's John F Kennedy airport as they sought to board planes to Egypt, with plans to travel onto Somalia, justice officials said.

They were accused of hatching a plot to commit the "murder, kidnapping and maiming" of US citizens "at a place outside the United States," according to a criminal complaint filed in a US court in the northeastern state of New Jersey.

Authorities said the men were caught as part of an undercover operation that spanned some three-and-a-half years, after being tipped off by an informant who sent a tip through the FBI's website.

An affidavit filed ahead of the arrests said the two men were planning to go to Somalia to join al-Shabaab, an organisation of several thousand fighters with ties to al-Qaeda.

They men had trained in "various hand to hand fighting tactics", as well as in the simulated use of weapons, according to an affidavit from an FBI agent investigating the case, Samuel Robinson.

They also were secretly recorded making statements "promoting violent jihad".

"The defendants discussed in substance and in part, violent jihadist groups operating in Somalia", Robinson wrote.

'People need to get killed'

The Newark Star Ledger newspaper said both men are US citizens who grew up going to school in the United States.

In a partial transcript of one of the wiretaps, Alessa is quoted as saying to Almonte and to an undercover agent in November 2009: "A lot of people need to get killed... My soul cannot rest until I shed blood. I want to be the world's known terrorist."

Regarding the US troops overseas, Almonte was quoted as saying: "I just want the troops to come back home safely and cosily."

"In body bags - in caskets," Alessa said.

"In caskets," Almonte agreed.

"Sliced up in a thousand pieces, cosy in the grave, in hell," added Alessa.

According to the affidavit, Alessa also referred in one conversation to Major Nidal Hasan, the army psychiatrist charged in the November 5 shooting that left 13 people dead at the Fort Hood base in Texas.

Don't need it

"He's not better than me - I'll do twice what he did," Alessa boasted.

The document said Almonte gave the undercover agent money to deposit in a bank that he could access from overseas, so had accessed funds while in Somalia, giving him $2 000 on April 7 and another $2 000 later that month.

On June 2, he gave the undercover agent another instalment of $4 100 to deposit in the account.

The affidavit said Almonte and Alessa travelled together in February 2007 to Jordan, and that a search of their luggage by US customs officials prior to their departure found three Camelback hydration systems of the type used by athlete training for endurance events, flash lights and camouflage clothing.

According to the Star Ledger, Mary Laboeria, a neighbour who lives three doors down from Almonte said she was surprised by the alleged ties to terrorism.

"I'm shocked. He graduated in our school system," she told the paper.

"It really hurts. We don't need it."

Around the time of the arrests, both men's homes were searched by agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who carted away boxes of evidence, according to the daily.