US Muslim man arrested for plotting to attack White House

Federal authorities arrest Georgia man for plotting to attack prominent locations in Washington, including the White House.

Elad Benari ,

FBI (illustration)
FBI (illustration)

Federal authorities have arrested a man in Georgia who they are accusing of plotting to attack several prominent locations in Washington, D.C., including the White House, ABC News reported on Wednesday.

The suspect, Hasher Jallal Taheb, had been under investigation by the FBI as part of a sting operation after local authorities reported concerns about him becoming radicalized last March, according to a criminal complaint filed in the federal court in the Northern District of Georgia in Atlanta on Wednesday.

A member of the community had reported to local law enforcement that Taheb had "become radicalized, changed his name and made plans to travel abroad," the complaint states.

Taheb applied for a US passport in July, stating that he had misplaced his previous one, and in August he put his vehicle up for sale, telling an FBI informant who expressed interest in buying it that he was selling the car to fund his travel overseas, according to the complaint.

Taheb told the FBI informant in October during a meeting in Cumming, Georgia, that he "wished to conduct an attack in the United States against targets such as the White House and the Statue of Liberty," the document states.

The suspect allegedly told the informant that "jihad was the best deed in Islam and the peak of Islam," adding that "it was not complicated at all to do jihad today," according to the complaint.

In a meeting with the informant and an undercover FBI agent on December 2, Taheb allegedly stated that "they could do more damage" in the US because abroad they would be "one of many." He also allegedly said that he wanted to be a “martyr” and cause as much damage as possible, the complaint states.

On December 7, Taheb allegedly showed the undercover operative a hand-drawn diagram of the White House's West Wing in a composition notebook and asked for help with obtaining weapons and explosives for the attack, the complaint states.

"He said the group would fight to the end and make it a big bang," according to the document quoted by ABC News.

Two days later, Taheb allegedly asked the undercover agent via text how "grocery shopping" was and offered to go with him to purchase the weapons and explosives, the complaint states.

On December 14, Taheb allegedly "broadened his prospective targets," indicating that he wished to attack the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial and a "specific synagogue" in the Washington, D.C. area, which was not named in the complaint. He also discussed the need for a "base" where they could regroup and "give a speech to motivate people" and show clips of "oppressed Muslims," the document states.

Taheb allegedly met with the undercover agent on January 9 and provided him with two backpacks, stating that he wanted to obtain the weapons within the next week and travel to Washington, D.C., the complaint states. Taheb allegedly told the undercover agent that the explosives would be inside the backpacks and would be detonated with cell phones.

On Saturday, Taheb allegedly met with the FBI informant, providing him with a camera, an American flag and an Israeli flag and stating that he wanted to conduct the attack on Thursday, according to the sworn affidavit.

Taheb, the informant and the undercover agent met in the parking lot of a store in Buford, Georgia, on Wednesday for the "purpose of exchanging their vehicles for three semi-automatic assault rifles, three explosive devices with remote initiation and one AT-4," a single-shot smoothbore weapon," the document states.

Taheb was arrested after he allegedly took possession of two backpacks containing the explosives and the AT-4 and placed them in a rental vehicle, the document states.

Radicalization has become a common phenomenon in the US in recent years, as several Americans have been arrested on charges of support for terrorist groups such as the Islamic State (ISIS). American prosecutors have charged more than 100 individuals since 2013 with ISIS-related crimes.

In October of 2018, a US citizen of Iraqi descent was charged in Chicago with online coordination with the ISIS to recruit and encourage attacks.

In August of that year, Sgt. 1st Class Ikaika Kang, a Hawaii-based US soldier, pleaded guilty to trying to help ISIS. Kang was arrested in Hawaii a year earlier and was accused of wanting to commit a mass shooting after pledging loyalty to ISIS.

In 2017, a Massachusetts man was sentenced to 28 years in prison after he was convicted of conspiring to support the ISIS in a 2015 plot to attack police and behead anti-Islamist blogger Pamela Geller.