Reservist pleads guilty to firing on Pentagon

2012-01-26 21:59

Alexandria - A former US Marine Corps reservist pleaded guilty to charges of shooting at the Pentagon building and attempting to desecrate graves at Arlington National Cemetery in a plea deal on Thursday, and faces a 25-year prison sentence.

Yonathan Melaku, 23, had been charged in connection with a total of five shootings at the Pentagon, the National Museum of the Marine Corps and Coast Guard, and Marine Corps recruiting stations in late 2010.

Melaku, of Alexandria, Virginia, had raised concerns among federal authorities at the time of his arrest in June over the possibility that a "lone wolf" could have been planning a more serious attack in the United States.

Four shooting charges and destruction of property chargers were dropped in the plea deal before US District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee, who will formally sentence Melaku at a later date.

His defense lawyer requested a mental exam for Melaku before sentencing.

Dressed in green prison jumpsuit, he responded "yes, sir" and "no, sir" to questions from the judge. When asked, he declared himself "guilty".

No one was injured in the shootings, which took place late at night or early in the morning, and there was an estimated $111 000 in property damage.

Melaku shouted "Allahu akbar" (God is great) after the shootings and literature about the Taliban, al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden was found in his home, authorities said.

His motive was to "create fear and terror and that is what he did," Dana Boente, a federal prosecutor, told reporters after the hearing.

Melaku, who never served in the military overseas, was arrested several months after the shootings near Arlington National Cemetery.

In his backpack authorities found bullet casings and small bags of ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer that can be used in homemade bombs.

Prosecutors said he aimed to use the material to desecrate graves.

A search of his home turned up documents on his computer about bombmaking and explosives, according to a Federal Bureau of Investigation affidavit.