Oct 21, 2009 12:01 PM by MSNBC
A 27-year-old Massachusetts man conspired to kill two prominent U.S. politicians and carry out a holy war by attacking shoppers in U.S. malls and American troops in Iraq, federal prosecutors said Wednesday as they announced his arrest.
Tarek Mehanna of Sudbury sought - but never received - training in terrorist camps and worked with others from 2001 to May 2008 on the conspiracy to "kill, kidnap, maim or injure" people in foreign countries and the politicians, authorities said.
The politicians were members of the executive branch who are no longer in office, authorities said. They refused to give their names.
Prosecutors said Mehanna conspired with two other men: Ahman Abousamra, who authorities say is now in Syria, and an unnamed man, who is cooperating with authorities in the investigation.
The three men discussed their desire to participate in "violent jihad against American interests" and talked about "their desire to die on the battlefield," prosecutors said.
Mehanna had "multiple conversations about obtaining automatic weapons and randomly shooting people in shopping malls," Acting U.S. Attorney Michael Loucks said. Their plan was thwarted when they could only get handguns, not automatic weapons, he said.
Prosecutors would not say which malls had been targeted. They also allegedly hoped to attack U.S. troops stationed in Iraq.
Mehanna's attorney, J.W. Carney Jr., did not immediately return calls for comment.
Mehanna, a U.S. citizen, was arrested in November and charged with lying to the FBI in December 2006 when asked about the whereabouts of Daniel Maldonado, who is now serving a 10-year prison sentence for training alongside al-Qaida members to overthrow the Somali government.
Mehanna told the FBI that Maldonado was living in Egypt and working for a Web site. But authorities said Maldonado had called Mehanna from Somalia urging him to join him in "training for jihad."
Authorities said Wednesday that Mehanna and his conspirators had contacted Maldonado about getting automatic weapons for their planned mall attacks.
The case comes less than a month after an Afghan-born man, Najibullah Zazi, was accused of plotting a bomb attack against the United States.
Authorities say Zazi took a bomb-making course at an al-Qaida training camp in Pakistan, had bomb-making notes on his laptop computer and acquired bomb-making materials similar to those used in the 2005 London attacks, buying acetone and hydrogen peroxide at beauty supply stores.
Zazi, an Afghan immigrant and permanent U.S. resident, was indicted late last month on a charge of conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction. He pleaded not guilty and was ordered held in prison without bail.