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FBI Affidavit Details Terrorist Plot

Unsealed documents list 20 targets selected to retaliate for war in Iraq. Men robbed gas stations to finance the planned attacks, authorities say.

September 23, 2005|Andrew Blankstein and Greg Krikorian | Times Staff Writers

Three Los Angeles County men plotted to inflict 35 to 40 casualties in a jihad against Southern California military installations to avenge the U.S. war in Iraq and the mistreatment of Muslim prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, according to a federal affidavit.

Levar Haney Washington, 25, and Gregory Vernon Patterson and Hammad Riaz Samana, both 21, have been in custody since midsummer.

Before their arrests, they targeted 10 Army recruitment centers around Los Angeles County in the first phase of an alleged terrorist plot, according to the FBI affidavit filed in support of the charges against Samana.

All told, 20 possible targets -- including two military installations in West Los Angeles, 18 Army recruitment centers and an Army ball -- were allegedly chosen by the conspirators, court documents said.

Investigators later confirmed that a ball was scheduled to take place at the location but not on the date cited by the men. The document makes no mention of synagogues, the Israeli Consulate or other places investigators previously said were among the men's targets.

Washington and Patterson were arrested in July by Torrance police in connection with a string of armed robberies at gas stations.

A month later, federal authorities picked up Samana, whom they accused of joining in the alleged robberies to finance the attacks.

Earlier this month, the men, along with Kevin Lamar James, who is in prison, were indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of conspiracy to levy war against the U.S. government through terrorism. The affidavit, which was recently unsealed by the court, offers new details of the alleged conspiracy and alleges that the suspects admitted to large portions of the plot in interviews with FBI and anti-terrorism agents.

According to the affidavit, Washington told agents from the FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force, a local law enforcement group, that he was the head of an Islamic council that met twice a week to plan a jihad against the U.S.

Washington said the council was formed to "respond to the oppression of Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan by the U.S. government" and that the plan was to carry out two operations in the Los Angeles area, the first targeting the recruitment centers, FBI Special Agent James Clinton Judd, the affidavit's author, wrote.

Washington said the council had conducted reconnaissance on the targets, evaluating "whether a bomb would be feasible or whether it would be better to use rifles and inflict as many casualties as possible," the affidavit said. He also told investigators that planning for the attacks was almost complete, the affidavit said.

Patterson allegedly told law enforcement authorities that the gas station robberies were part of the jihad against the U.S., "particularly against American oil companies who are stealing from 'our countries,' i.e. Muslim countries," Judd wrote. "The ultimate goal is to die for Allah in a jihad," Patterson told investigators, the affidavit said.

Patterson said he recently used money from the gas station holdups to buy a .223-caliber rifle for the alleged attacks, Judd added.

In his interview with the FBI, Samana said he shared Washington's view that "something must be done to punish the United States."

Samana said he wrote a document titled "Mode of Attack" between July 1 and July 6, 2005, and that Washington told him that he wanted to research several locations "suitable for an attack."

On July 4, Samana, Washington and Patterson conducted target shooting at a park in Los Angeles.

The weapon matched the description of one used in a Fullerton armed robbery, the affidavit said.

Patterson's lawyer, Winston McKesson, said his client did not want him to comment on the specifics of the case.

"However," McKesson said, "I do want to say that he has been and he continues to be a deeply religious person, and it is not his desire to have any harm come to this country."

Attorneys for the other men could not be reached for comment.

Authorities have alleged that the plot was hatched by James, 29, a prisoner at the California State Prison in Sacramento and purported founder of a radical Islamic prison gang known as \o7Jamiyyat Ul Islam Is Saheeh\f7, or the Assembly of Authentic Islam.

During a brief news conference at the Federal Building in Westwood, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III called the Torrance case the most significant prison-based plot uncovered by authorities in years, significant because the suspects were actually planning an attack, he added.

"I wouldn't go so far as to say ... that we have had no others that came to the same level of specificity, because we have," Mueller told reporters. "But there were specifics here that caused us some concern.... [The defendants] were pretty far advanced in terms of identifying targets, and that makes it in a class with one or two" other cases.

In recent weeks, prompted largely by the California case, the FBI has launched a new initiative to monitor prisons nationwide to forestall the possibility of inmates working among themselves or with outsiders to plan terrorist attacks.

With three of the four defendants born and raised in the U.S., Mueller said the case pointed up the potential of home-grown terrorism.

"We have not forgotten the Oklahoma City bombing. One cannot forget the anthrax attacks," Mueller said. "We have since Sept. 11 understood that there was a threat to the United States from international terrorist groups from outside the United States. We have not for a moment forgotten ... the fact that domestic terrorists could very easily be capable of the same kind of attack."

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