June 23, 2011

Two arrested in alleged Seattle terror plot

Seattle Times
 
Associated Press photo

Khalid Abdul-Latif
(Full-size photo)

SEATTLE — Two men have been arrested in Seattle in what federal agents say was a terrorist plot to attack a military recruit processing station in Seattle.

Abu Khalid Abdul-Latif, also known as Joseph Anthony Davis, 33, of Seattle, and Walli Mujahidh, aka Frederick Dominque Jr., 32, of Los Angeles were arrested Wednesday and charged in a complaint unsealed in U.S. District Court in Seattle.

Among the charges were conspiracy to murder U.S. officers, conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction and unlawful possession of firearms.

Both men appeared this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mary Alice Theiler, who ordered them held pending a detention hearing next Wednesday. A preliminary hearing is set for July 7, which will be held only if the men are not indicted by a grand jury before then.

Both men face up to life in prison if convicted. If they also are convicted of firearms charges, they face a minimum and mandatory 30-year prison term that must be served consecutively. Both men were appointed attorneys, but neither would talk after the hearing.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the men, both Americans, purchased machine guns and had planned an attack on the Military Entrance Processing Station located on East Marginal Way South in Seattle. The station employs military and civilian workers and houses a federal day-care center, according to a news release.

Agents monitored the purchase of the weapons and had rendered them inoperable.

The men initially had planned an attack on Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

According to the charges, Abdul-Latif was recorded explaining that his “anger over the United States Military’s real or perceived activities in Afghanistan, Iraq and Yemen” motivated the attacks.

A law enforcement source familiar with the investigation said that Abdul-Lafif was also upset at revelations coming from military courts-martial proceedings against a group of soldiers at the base accused of murdering innocent civilians in Afghanistan.

The source said both men were converts to Islam and neither has any known affiliation to al-Qaida or other terrorist groups.

“They were self-radicalized,” the source said.

FBI agents seized a number of DVDs and other materials from Abdul-Latif’s home. “There was a lot of mujahedeen stuff. A lot of radical literature.”

U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan, in a prepared statement, said, “The complaint alleges these men intended to carry out a deadly attack against our military where they should be most safe, here at home.”

Seattle police first became aware of the plot when a citizen reported that the men had tried to recruit him to help them obtain weapons, including hand grenades. The person agreed to work with law enforcement, which had been monitoring and videotaping the men for months. Some of the tapes include discussions of the proposed attack.

The source said the FBI and police became particularly concerned when the men brought up the November 2009 attack by Maj. Nidal Hasan at Fort Hood, Texas, which left 13 people dead and 29 wounded.

“Driven by a violent, extreme ideology, these two young Americans are charged with plotting to murder men and women who were enlisting in the Armed Forces to serve and protect our country,” said Todd Hinnen, acting assistant Attorney General for National Security, adding that this is “is one of a number of recent plots targeting our military here at home.”

Abdul-Latif, who lives in a large apartment complex in SeaTac, is married and has one or two children, according to one neighbor, Jimmy Mack.

Mack said Abdul-Latif kept to himself and appeared “snooty” to other residents.

“I knew he was kind of struggling,” Mack said.

When Mack first moved into the complex a few months ago, he was told that some previous tenants had called police on Abdul-Latif. Abdul-Latif reportedly told Mack, “It’s none of your business what I’m doing,” Mack said.

Another resident, Abdi Mohamud, said Abdul-Latif has lived at the complex for about five years and spent a lot of time in his apartment.

Abdul-Latif was in the janitorial business and was “kind of a quiet guy,” Mohamud said. “He looked like an everyday guy.”

Abdul-Latif’s car — a red Honda Passport — was parked outside his building today. A sign on the driver’s side door read, “Fresh ’n’ Clean Janitorial Service” and indicated services offered included office and house cleaning, carpet cleaning, floor maintenance, car detailing and construction cleanup.

According to the federal indictment, Abdul-Latif served briefly in the Navy in the 1990s. No specific date was provided, however.

He has two felony convictions. A 2002 conviction for robbery, which sent him to prison for 31 months, and a 2003 custodial assault conviction for which he served another five and a half months. He also has misdemeanor convictions for obstructing a law enforcement officer, assault and theft in Kitsap County.

A psychological evaluation related to the 2002 robbery charges found that Abdul-Latif “might have some psychological issues” but was competent to participate in his defense.

According to court records, Abdul-Latif filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy on May 20.

At some point, he moved to Seattle from the San Diego area.

In Seattle, outside the military processing center this afternoon, many of the 600 center employees were enjoying the annual company picnic, an event that almost didn’t happen because of the plot.

“We were about ready to cancel the picnic,” said U.S. Army Col. Anthony Wright.

Wright said the plot was the most serious threat made against the center in three years, but he wouldn’t elaborate on any previous threats that were made.

The federal center, a brick building mostly hidden by trees from the street, houses 300 workers along with the processing center workers. It’s one of a network of 65 such MEPS facilities in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

In the wake of the arrests, Gov. Chris Gregoire and Sen. Maria Cantwell both issued statements thanking law-enforcement agencies for their work.

“These arrests highlight the need for continued vigilance, and the importance of communication between our local, state and federal law-enforcement agencies,” Cantwell said. “Today, our thoughts and prayers go out to America’s military, who put their lives on the line to defend our country both at home and abroad.”

Get stories like this in a free daily email


Please keep it civil. Don't post comments that are obscene, defamatory, threatening, off-topic, an infringement of copyright or an invasion of privacy. Read our forum standards and community guidelines.

You must be logged in to post comments. Please log in here or click the comment box below for options.

comments powered by Disqus