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How FBI traced Tarek Mehanna in his quest to become a jihadi

Informants helped the FBI track Tarek Mehanna to the Middle East in search of terrorist training, according to government documents. Agents also copied his computer hard drive.

By Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / October 22, 2009

Tarek Mehanna of Sudbury, Massachusetts, is seen in this image from a video footage taken in Boston, Massachusetts, on February 11. Mehanna was arrested at his home Wednesday morning, and US federal prosecutors have charged him with conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists.

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Tarek Mehanna actively tried to become a terrorist for eight years following the 9/11 attacks, US authorities allege. Arrested by the FBI Wednesday and charged with providing "material support" to terrorists, his history and footsteps took twists that led his group of three conspirators as far afield as Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, according to a criminal complaint filed in US District Court.

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What follows is a time line of Mr. Mehanna's and his group's alleged actions from before the 9/11 attacks in 2001 up to 2008, according to the FBI's complaint and an affidavit supporting a search warrant:

• 2000-2001 – Tarek Mehanna, who has known "CW2" (a conspirator who in late 2006 agreed to cooperate with the FBI) for 15 to 20 years, introduces him to Ahmad Abousamra, and the three men become close friends. Common interests include talking about religion and Muslims' role in the United States and justification for certain jihadist acts.

• Pre-Sept. 11, 2001 – Mehanna, Abousamra, and CW2 talk about going to terrorist training camps in Pakistan, searching the Internet for logistical information for locations and travel, but no solid plans materialize.

• After Sept. 11, 2001 – Mehanna, Abousamra, and CW2 express support for the attacks.

• April 4, 2002 – Abousamra travels to Pakistan in search of terrorist training, but apparently doesn't find it, returning home.

• Fall 2002 – Mehanna meets Daniel Maldonado through Abousamra. At Mehanna's home, they watch jihadi videos showing pillaging of the Muslim world in Bosnia and the Palestinian territories. Later, the video shows mujahideen victories and footage of people being killed. Afterward, Mehanna, Abousamra, and Maldonado talk about the glory of dying for Allah.

• Nov. 17, 2002 – Abousamra travels again to Pakistan, where he connects with a man who helps him find a Taliban camp and another run by a Lashkar e Tayyiba group. But, as he later tells CW2, he was rejected by the former for being too inexperienced and by the latter for not being Pakistani.

• 2003 – Mehanna, Abousamra, and CW2 determine Pakistan is not a feasible place to get terrorist training. Frustrated, they begin exploring other options, including committing domestic terrorist acts. One topic of discussion: the feasibility of shooting a member of the executive branch of government. In another discussion, killing a second member of the executive branch is debated.

• Second half of 2003 – Inspired by the 2002 sniper attacks in Washington, D.C., Mehanna, Abousamra, and CW2 discuss a plan to get automatic weapons, go to a shopping mall, and randomly shoot people. Abousamra says civilians aren't innocent because they pay taxes to the government and because they are Kufar (nonbelievers).

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