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Plot to bomb Capitol with explosive-laden model planes foiled, FBI says

Rezwan Ferdaus was arrested in Massachusetts Wednesday, charged with plotting to kill US soldiers overseas as well as to attack the Pentagon and the US Capitol with explosives carried by remote control aircraft.

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This train of events very closely follows other recent law enforcement undercover operations in which alleged terrorists essentially ensure their arrest and prosecution with their own words, including the arrest last December of Somalia-born Mohamed Osman Mohamud, who allegedly plotted to explode a bomb at the Pioneer Courthouse Square in Portland, Ore., where thousands of families had gathered for the traditional Christmas tree lighting.

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There too, the suspect was told that the action he was plotting could kill many innocent civilians, including children. That seemed to increase the suspect’s desire to succeed.

In a similar case in June, Abu Khalid Abdul-Latif, also known as Joseph Anthony Davis, of Seattle, and Walli Mujahidh, also known as Frederick Domingue Jr., of Los Angeles, were arrested when they arrived at a warehouse to pick up machine guns they intended to use in an alleged terror plot.

The target in that case was the Military Entrance Processing Station just south of Seattle. Some 900 military personnel and civilians work there, many of them for the US Army Corps of Engineers or processing new military recruits. The campus includes a child-care facility.

In another case last year, Pakistani-born US citizen Farooque Ahmed of Ashburn, Va., was charged with plotting to carry out a coordinated bombing attack on Metrorail stations in suburban Virginia near Washington, D.C.

The difference in this week’s arrest in Massachusetts is that the intended targets were not “soft” (essentially unguarded) but highly protected targets (the Pentagon, the Capitol, and US forces in war zones) with important symbolic political and national security value.

According to a federal agency assessment obtained earlier this year by the Associated Press, “Our review of attempted attacks during the past two years suggests that lone offenders currently present the greatest threat.”

“Unlike hardened facilities such as active duty military bases and installations, soft targets such as recruiting stations are more likely to be deemed a feasible target due to their easy, open access to the public,” states the assessment, which is marked “for official use only.”

In the years since 9/11, sting operations and the use of informants have become among the most important weapons in the fight against domestic terrorism – in about 30 cases over the past five years or so.

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