Seven arrested in Miami terror plot to blow up Sears Tower - FBI and Federal buildings - warehouse used for military training
June 22, 2006
Federal and local law enforcement authorities conduct a search
MIM: The seven arrested were African American and are connected to the Nation of Islam which has a large mosque and Clara Muhammed school in the center of Liberty City.
"...Masjid Al-Ansar Mosque at 5245 NW Seventh Ave. historic. Former heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali worshiped at the 30-year-old Liberty City mosque, which reportedly was frequently visited by Malcolm X..."
June 22, 2006, 8:45PM
By KELLI KENNEDY Associated Press Writer
MIAMI — Seven people were arrested Thursday in connection with the early stages of a plot to attack Chicago's Sears Tower and other buildings in the U.S., including the FBI office here, a federal law enforcement official said.
As part of the raids related to the arrests, FBI agents swarmed a warehouse in Miami's Liberty City area, using a blowtorch to take off a metal door. A neighbor said the suspects had been sleeping in the warehouse while running what seemed to be a "military boot camp."
The official told The Associated Press the alleged plotters were mainly Americans with no apparent ties to al-Qaida or other foreign terrorist organizations. He spoke on condition of anonymity so as not to pre-empt news conferences planned for Friday in Washington and Miami.
Miami U.S. Attorney R. Alexander Acosta said in a statement that the investigation was an ongoing operation and that more details would be released Friday.
"There is no imminent threat to Miami or any other area because of these operations," said Richard Kolko, spokesman for FBI headquarters in Washington. He declined further comment.
FBI Director Robert Mueller, questioned about the case during an appearance on CNN's "Larry King Live," said he couldn't offer many details because "it's an ongoing operation."
"We are conducting a number of arrests and searches" in Miami, Mueller said, which were expected to be wrapped up Friday morning.
Residents living near the warehouse said the men taken into custody described themselves as Muslims and had tried to recruit young people to join their group, which seemed militaristic.
The residents said FBI agents spent several hours in the neighborhood showing photos of the suspects and seeking information. They said the men had lived in the area about a year.
The men slept in the warehouse, said Tashawn Rose, 29. "They would come out late at night and exercise. It seemed like a military boot camp that they were working on there. They would come out and stand guard."
She talked to one of the men about a month ago: "They seemed brainwashed. They said they had given their lives to Allah."
Rose said the men tried to recruit her younger brother and nephew for a karate class.
"It was weird," she said.
Gov. Jeb Bush was briefed on the situation Thursday, according to his spokeswoman, Alia Faraj.
"We have great confidence in the federal, state and local law enforcement agencies who are committed to keeping our country safe," Faraj said.
She added that there has been greater communication between state and federal agencies since the 2001 terror attacks.
The 110-floor Sears Tower is the nation's tallest building. Security was ramped up after the Sept. 11 attacks, and the 103rd-floor skydeck was closed for about a month and a half.
Several terrorism investigations have had south Florida links. Several of the Sept. 11 hijackers lived and trained in the area, including ringleader Mohamed Atta, and several plots by Cuban-Americans against Fidel Castro's government have been based in Miami.
Jose Padilla, a former resident once accused of plotting to detonate a radioactive bomb in the U.S., is charged in Miami with being part of a support cell for Islamic extremists. Padilla's trial is set for this fall.
FBI detains 7 in domestic terror probe
Sources: Targets may have included Sears Tower, FBI building
MIAMI, Florida (CNN) -- Seven people are in custody after a sweep by law enforcement authorities in connection with an alleged plot against targets that may have included the Sears Tower, officials told CNN on Thursday.
Officials said no weapons or bomb-making materials had been found in the searches in the Miami area by FBI and state and local law enforcement officials. The city is under no imminent threat, according to the FBI.
Law enforcement sources told CNN that the arrests disrupted what may have been the early stages of a domestic terrorist plot to attack the Sears Tower in Chicago, Illinois, the FBI building in Miami, and possibly other targets. (Watch details of the raids -- 2:53)
The 110-story Sears Tower is the world's third-tallest building and the tallest in North America.
Barbara Carley, managing director of the Sears Tower, said in a statement that "it would be inappropriate for us to confirm or deny details of news reports about federal law enforcement action before an official statement from the Justice Department.
"However, Sears Tower security officials regularly speak with the FBI and local law enforcement authorities who track and investigate terrorism threats. Today was no exception," she said. "Despite new information, law enforcement continues to tell us that they have never found evidence of a credible terrorism threat against Sears Tower that has gone beyond criminal discussions."
Law enforcement sources told CNN that some of the suspects are members of a radical African-American Muslim group and that at least one had taken "an al Qaeda oath." They had carried out surveillance on the Sears Tower and FBI building in Miami, the sources said.
Sources told CNN that the arrests culminated a monthslong undercover operation. The suspects believed they were dealing with an al Qaeda operative, but the person was actually a government informant, the sources said.
Documents related to the investigation have been sealed.
One of the arrests was made before Thursday, officials said.
A spokeswoman for Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez said the mayor was notified of the raid earlier in the day, and a spokesman for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said the governor had been notified Thursday morning.
Both Alvarez and Bush said they had no plans to tighten security.
"If anything, this is a plot foiled," Alvarez spokeswoman Vicki Mallette said.
Plans for a massive rally Friday in the city for the Miami Heat, the new National Basketball Association champions, are unchanged, she said, adding that 200,000 people were expected to attend.
The FBI said one search warrant was executed in a warehouse near a housing project in Liberty City, a predominantly black and low-income area of Miami.
Cedric Thomas, a co-owner of Thomas Produce Market, told the Miami Herald that the area around his store was teeming with federal agents.
"There is a ton of guys in uniforms moving around, blocking the streets. I'm not sure what they are doing," Thomas told the newspaper.
Residents living near the warehouse told The Associated Press that the men taken into custody called themselves Muslims and had tried to recruit young people.
The men slept in the warehouse, Tashawn Rose, 29, told the AP.
"They would come out late at night and exercise," she said. "It seemed like a military boot camp that they were working on there. They would come out and stand guard."
The residents told the AP that FBI agents spent several hours seeking information from people in the neighborhood. They said the suspects, who appeared to be in their teens or 20s, had lived in the area for about a year, the AP reported.
"We are conducting a number of arrests and searches, and we'll have more about that when the operation is completed, probably tomorrow morning," FBI Director Robert Mueller told CNN's Larry King in an interview broadcast Thursday night.
"Because it's an ongoing operation, we really can't get into details," Mueller said. "But whenever we undertake an operation like this, we would not do it without the approval of a judge. We've got search warrants and arrest warrants and the like. ...."
In a statement, the U.S. attorney's office in Miami said federal, state and local agencies made the arrests in connection with a domestic "terrorist-related matter."
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will hold a news conference Friday regarding the raids.
CNN's Kevin Bohn and Susan Candiotti contributed to this report.