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FBI outlines case against Tarek Mehanna in terror plot

Massachusetts resident Tarek Mehanna, arrested Wednesday, plotted to attack Americans at a shopping mall, FBI says. Failing that, he tried cyberattacks.

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Among other things, Mehanna translated and published online an English translation of “39 Ways to Serve and Participate in Jihad” – such activities as fundraising or “electronic jihad” by participating in online chat rooms and cyber attacks on enemy websites, the affidavit alleges.

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A copy of “39 Ways” was found on Mehanna’s laptop computer along with files showing he had “translated and distributed materials which promoted Jihad,” including
Al Qaeda propaganda. One video alleged to be distributed by Mehanna in July 2006 depicts the remains of US personnel in Iraq being mutilated; it included a preface by Osama bin Laden.

The House permanent Select Committee on Intelligence heard testimony in May 2005 in which terrorist organizations’ Internet presence was described as “a critical component of their strategies to engage in propaganda, recruit, raise funds, operationally communicate, in essence, to perform the necessary support functions of terror.”

The government’s case falls somewhere in the middle of recent terrorism cases in terms of its seriousness, experts say. Najibulla Zazi, an immigrant from Afghanistan arrested last month in Colorado, has been charged with attempting to conduct an attack in New York around the anniversary of 9/11. Other cases include more serious preparation.

Daniel Boyd of North Carolina and six other men, including his two sons, were charged with collecting automatic weapons, and they had traveled overseas for terror training.

Mehanna did not get nearly that far but appears, rather, to be a “terrorist wannabe” who was rejected when he went looking for training camps abroad, says Christopher Brown, a terrorism expert at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies in Arlington, Va.

Even so, he says, the case points to a troubling class of individuals: those who have no organizational guidance and who can be difficult to track because they lack any large support structure.

“With all that motivation, eventually he could probably have pulled something off and really hurt someone,” Mr. Brown says. “Someone else with more skill, who goes about it a little smarter, could be a real problem.”


Terrorist plots uncovered in the US since 9/11: a chronology

At least 21 plots to uncover domestic terrorism plots have been foiled. Click here to read about them.


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