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Pair accused of plotting Seattle attack

Two men, one from Los Angeles, are arrested. They are accused of planning an assault on a military recruiting center with grenades and machine guns.

June 24, 2011|By Kim Murphy, Los Angeles Times
  • Col. Anthony Wright speaks to reporters in Seattle outside a federal building. Authorities have arrested two men who they say had plotted to attack a military recruiting station.
Col. Anthony Wright speaks to reporters in Seattle outside a federal building.… (Elaine Thompson / Associated…)

Reporting from Seattle — A bankrupt janitor from Seattle who admired Osama bin Laden and a Los Angeles man who said he was going on jihad were accused of plotting to attack a military recruiting center as vengeance for violence committed against Afghan civilians, according to a federal complaint Thursday.

"Imagine how fearful America will be, and they'll know they can't push the Muslims around," Abu Khalid Abdul-Latif, 33, told an FBI informant, according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle.

Abdul-Latif, of Tukwila, Wash., also goes by Joseph Anthony Davis. He is accused of plotting with Walli Mujahidh, 32, of Los Angeles, also known as Frederick Domingue Jr., to drive up to the U.S. Military Entrance Processing Station in south Seattle in a truck with a battering ram "that looks like the Titanic," open fire with machine guns and grenades, and "take out anybody wearing green or a badge."

"This is what I'm gonna do: I'm gonna post guard. I'm gonna come in, pop-pop the security guard. Run into the cafeteria, lay everybody down in there. Pop-pop-pop-pop," Mujahidh purportedly said in a conversation monitored by the FBI.

But authorities said the plot was foiled late last month after the longtime acquaintance that Abdul-Latif had contacted to help him buy weapons went to the police, who turned over the case to the FBI. From then on, the planning was captured on video and audio tape, authorities said.

Abdul-Latif told the informant he had $800 to $1,200 and wanted three guns, including fully automatic machine guns, and 10 hand grenades, according to the complaint. The informant took the money and placed an order.

On Wednesday night, he took the men to a warehouse garage in Seattle, where federal agents had placed three Colt M16-A1 assault rifles that had been rendered inoperable, authorities said. There, they were taken into custody.

Both face federal charges of conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction (in this case, a grenade) and unlawful possession of firearms. They appeared in court Thursday and were scheduled for bail hearings Wednesday.

Authorities have not identified any connection between known terrorist organizations and either man.

FBI officials said Mujahidh waived his rights and submitted to an interview, during which he allegedly confessed.

"Driven by a violent, extreme ideology, these two young Americans are charged with plotting to murder men and women who are enlisting in the armed forces to serve and protect our country," Todd M. Hinnen, acting assistant attorney general for national security, said in a statement.

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn said he had learned of the purported attack Wednesday. "Public safety depends on the police and community working together," he said. "That's what happened in this case."

According to the criminal complaint and an affidavit filed in court, the pair initially planned to hit Joint Base Lewis-McChord, an Army and Air Force base south of Tacoma, Wash. There, several soldiers from the 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team have been facing courts-martial on charges of deliberately staging killings of Afghan civilians and, in some cases, keeping fingers and a skull as souvenirs.

Abdul-Latif allegedly told the informant that he wanted to die as a martyr during the attack, which was in retaliation for those and other "crimes" committed by U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. He said he was "not comfortable with letting the legal system deal with these matters," FBI Agent Albert Kelly III said in an affidavit attached to the complaint.

Later, Abdul-Latif said he had decided on the processing center instead.

On June 8, the complaint said, Abdul-Latif and the informant drove to the military processing center, which includes other federal government offices and a daycare center.

Abdul-Latif commented on the presence of a security guard and security cameras near the entrance, according to the complaint, but added that he was not "worried" about the guard, saying: "We'll just kill him right away.... We can kill him first."

Abdul-Latif has a record of convictions for assault and theft, records show.

He filed for bankruptcy about a month ago, stating that expenses for his janitorial service greatly exceeded his income, the Associated Press reported.

"He seemed like a guy just trying to make it, having a rough time because business wasn't going very well," his bankruptcy attorney, Steve Dashiak, told the Associated Press. "To say that I didn't see this coming would be an understatement."

Mujahidh had no felony convictions, the FBI said, but records reviewed by The Times show a string of misdemeanor charges, mainly in Riverside County, for such offenses as burglary, theft, child neglect and marijuana possession. Many were dismissed.

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