A 19-year-old Jordanian man living in Texas was arrested Thursday on charges he intended to bomb a downtown Dallas skyscraper, federal officials said.
Hosam Maher Husein Smadi was arrested after placing what he believed to be a car bomb outside the 60-story Fountain Place office tower Thursday, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney's office in Dallas. The decoy device was given to him by an undercover FBI agent, the statement said.
Smadi was charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. Federal officials said the case has no connection with the major terrorism investigation under way in Colorado and New York or the arrest Thursday of a man facing charges in a similar plot in Springfield, Ill.
Court documents do not list an attorney for Smadi. He was in federal custody in Dallas without bond, said Special Agent Mark White, spokesman for the Dallas FBI office. Legal representation is usually addressed at initial court appearances like the one scheduled for Smadi on Friday, White said.
The case is unrelated to that against Najibullah Zazi, a 24-year-old shuttle driver at the Denver airport also indicted in New York on charges of conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction. It was also unrelated to the case against Michael C. Finton, who was accused of planning to bomb the federal courthouse in Springfield, Ill, White said.
White declined to comment on the specifics of the Dallas case.
Smadi under close watch
The FBI kept Smadi, who lived in the small north Texas town of Italy, since and undercover agent discovered him in an online group of extremists, according to an FBI affidavit that did not specify a date.
"He stood out based on his vehement intention to actually conduct terror attacks in the United States," FBI supervisory special agent Thomas Petrowski wrote in the affidavit.
Three undercover agents who are native Arabic speakers eventually communicated and met with Smadi over several months, posing as members of an al-Qaida sleeper cell, according to the court documents. They allege he discussed targeting military recruiting centers, credit card companies, the airport or an armory before settling on a building containing a bank branch.
Smadi also allegedly said he wanted to attack on Sept. 11 but chose to wait until after Ramadan.
Agents provided Smadi with what he believed was a car bomb but was actually an inert device, according to Petrowski's affidavit.
Smadi drove to Dallas on Thursday, met one of the undercover agents and then drove to the targeted building, the FBI agent wrote. Smadi then allegedly drove a vehicle with the device into the parking garage beneath the building, parked it and attempted to detonate the bomb by setting the device's timer and flipping its power switch.
Smadi met again with the undercover agent, who drove several blocks away and Smadi dialed a cell phone he was led to believe would detonate the car bomb, according to the affidavit.
'Remain ever vigilant'
In the Illinois case, a 29-year-old man who idolized American-born Taliban soldier John Walker Lindh was arrested after attempting to detonate what he thought was a bomb inside a van outside a federal courthouse, officials said.
Michael C. Finton, also known as Talib Islam, was arrested and charged in a criminal complaint with one count of attempting to murder federal officers or employees and trying to detonate a weapon of mass destruction.
"This alleged plot drives home the stark reality that we must avoid complacency and remain ever vigilant to the threats that violent extremists may pose to the public safety," Acting U.S. Attorney Jeffrey B. Lang said.
Finton appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Byron G. Cudmore in Springfield and said he was an unmarried, part-time cook at a fish and chicken restaurant in the central Illinois city of Decatur. He was ordered held in jail pending action by a grand jury.
A message was left at the office of Finton's defense attorney, Robert Scherschlight, a federal defender.
An FBI affidavit said that in the months leading up to the arrest, Finton had been closely monitored by agents including a special officer who posed as a low-level operative of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorist network.
It said Finton was arrested after using a cell phone in an attempt to detonate a van filled with material that he had been told was explosive but was actually harmless. It was not immediately clear what the material was.
The affidavit traced two years of activities by Finton leading up to the alleged bomb plot and arrest. It said Finton's parole on a previous conviction was revoked in August 2007 and writings found afterward included a letter to Lindh, who was captured fighting for the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Finton told agents in January 2008 he idolized Lindh, the affidavit said. It was not immediately known what his previous conviction was.
The affidavit said that in March 2008 Finton received funds from Saudi Arabia and used them to travel to the kingdom for a monthlong visit. No other details were immediately available.
Finton was introduced to the FBI special officer posing as an al-Qaida operative in February, according to the affidavit.
Finton expressed a desire to receive military training and fight in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia or elsewhere, agents said. In the months that followed, he talked about an attack within the United States and ultimately settled on the Paul Findley courthouse.
He also allegedly took an interest in the nearby office of Republican U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock as well, the affidavit said.
The maximum penalty for attempted murder of federal officers and detonation of a weapon of mass destruction is life in prison.