September 26, 2009 in Nation/World

Feds arrest two men in separate alleged plots

Authorities say both tried to detonate decoy devices
Anabelle Garay Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Tabatha Rogers, 19, holds son Justice Rogers and talks about her friend Hosam Maher Husein Smadi, who lives in the same housing complex of dome-style homes in Italy, Texas. Rogers described the bomb-plot suspect as a fun-loving man who danced to techno music and worked at a gas station. “He was just a real good guy,” she said.
(Full-size photo)

DALLAS – Two men were in custody Friday after each tried to blow up what they thought were vehicles packed with explosives outside a Texas skyscraper and an Illinois courthouse, authorities said.

The two cases were unconnected.

Hosam Maher Husein Smadi, 19, a Jordanian who lives in Texas, appeared in court Friday after federal officials said he parked what he thought was an explosives-laden truck in a parking garage beneath the 60-story Fountain Place office tower in Dallas.

Michael C. Finton, 29, who also went by the name Talib Islam and idolized John Walker Lindh – the American-born Taliban fighter – was arrested Wednesday in Springfield, Ill., after federal officials said he attempted to detonate what he believed to be explosives in a van outside a federal courthouse in the Illinois capital.

In both cases, decoy devices were provided to the men by FBI agents posing as al-Qaida operatives. Both are charged with trying to detonate a weapon of mass destruction and face up to life in prison if convicted. Finton also is charged with attempting to murder federal officers or employees.

Smadi, who federal prosecutors said lived and worked in the north central Texas town of Italy, came to the United States in 2007 with his brother, Hussein, on student visas, their father Maher Hussein Smadi told the Associated Press in Jordan.

Smadi on Thursday parked a vehicle containing the device in a garage beneath the Dallas office tower and set the device’s timer, according to an affidavit in the case. Smadi then met with an agent, who drove several blocks away and Smadi dialed a cell phone in an attempt to detonate the bomb, according to the affidavit, which said he picked the Fountain Place because it housed banks.

In Illinois, Finton also had been closely monitored by federal agents including in the months leading up to his arrest, according to an affidavit in that case. It said an FBI agent who posed as an al-Qaida operative presented Finton on Wednesday with a van containing materials he described as explosive but which actually were harmless.

The two men parked the van at the courthouse and close to the office of U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., which Finton allegedly hoped also would be damaged. They then drove a short distance to where Finton twice used a cell phone to try to detonate the explosives, the affidavit said. He was arrested immediately.

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