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Denise Lavoie / Associated Press.

BOSTON: A pharmacy college graduate made a defiant appearance in federal court Wednesday, hours after being charged with conspiring with two other men in a terror plot to kill two prominent US politicians and carry out a holy war by attacking shoppers in US malls and American troops in Iraq.

Authorities say the men's plans -- in which they used code words like "peanut butter and jelly" for fighting in Somalia and "culinary school" for terrorist camps -- were thwarted in part when they could not find training and were unable to buy automatic weapons, authorities said.

Tarek Mehanna, 27, who has dual US-Egyptian citizenship, was arrested Wednesday morning at his parents' home in Sudbury, an upscale suburb 32 kilometers (20 miles) west of Boston, and appeared for a brief hearing later in the day.

When ordered by the judge to stand to hear the charge against him, he refused. He finally did stand -- tossing his chair loudly to the floor -- only after his father urged him to do so.

"This really, really is a show," his father, Ahmed Mehanna, said afterward. When asked if he believed the charges against his son, he said, "No, definitely not."

Prosecutors say Tarek Mehanna worked with two men from 2001 to May 2008 on the conspiracy to "kill, kidnap, maim or injure" soldiers and two politicians who were members of the executive branch but are no longer in office. Authorities refused to identify the politicians.

The charges were just the latest in a rash of cases brought to light by US investigators in recent weeks.

The news comes just after US officials said they had uncovered a plot to bomb New York around the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

A father and son of Afghan origin have been charged in that plot and are awaiting trial.

An Illinois man, who has dubbed himself Talib Islam, is on trial accused of parking a van he believed contained about a ton of explosives outside the courthouse in the state capital of Springfield last month.

While a 19-year-old Jordanian, also caught in an FBI sting, faces charges of trying to blow up a 60-story glass skyscraper in Dallas, Texas.

Mehanna -- a graduate of the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy in Boston, where his father is a professor -- allegedly conspired with Ahmad Abousamra, who authorities say is now in Syria, and an unnamed man, who is cooperating in the investigation, according to authorities.

The three men often discussed their desire to participate in "violent jihad against American interests" and talked about "their desire to die on the battlefield," prosecutors said.

But when they were unable to join terror groups in Iraq, Yemen and Pakistan, they found inspiration in the Washington-area sniper shootings and turned their interests to domestic terror pursuits while they plotted the attack on shopping malls, authorities said.

Mehanna had "multiple conversations about obtaining automatic weapons and randomly shooting people in shopping malls," Acting US Attorney Michael Loucks said. Prosecutors would not say which malls had been targeted.

Loucks said the men justified attacks because US civilians pay taxes to support the U.S. government and because they are "nonbelievers."

The mall plan was abandoned after the men failed to track down automatic weapons, Loucks said.

Mehanna's attorney, J.W. Carney Jr., would not comment on the allegations. Mehanna is being held until his next court appearance on Oct. 30.

Court documents filed by the government say that in 2002 or 2003, Abousamra became frustrated after repeatedly being rejected to join terror groups in Pakistan -- first Lashkar e Tayyiba, then the Taliban.

"Because Abousamra was an Arab (not Pakistani) the LeT camp would not accept him, and because of Abousamra's lack of experience, the Taliban camp would not accept him," FBI Special Agent Heidi Williams wrote in the affidavit.

Mehanna and Abousamra allegedly traveled to Yemen in 2004 in an attempt to join a terrorist training camp.

Mehanna allegedly told a friend, the third conspirator who is now cooperating with authorities, that their trip was a failure because they were unable to reach people affiliated with the camps.

The men, who had allegedly received tips on whom to meet from a person identified in court documents as "Individual A," said half the people they wanted to see were on "hajj," referring to the pilgrimage to Mecca in Islam, and half were in jail.

"They traveled all over the country looking for the people Individual A told them to meet," authorities allege in the criminal complaint.

Abousamra was rejected by a terror group when he sought training in Iraq because he was American, authorities said.

The men later decided they were not going to be able to get terror training in Pakistan and "began exploring other options, including terrorist acts in the United States," the affidavit said.

Mehanna, a US citizen, was arrested in November and charged with lying to the FBI in December 2006 when asked the whereabouts of Daniel Maldonado, who is now serving a 10-year prison sentence for training with al-Qaida to overthrow the Somali government.

Mehanna told the FBI that Maldonado was living in Egypt and working for a web site. But authorities said Maldonado had called Mehanna from Somalia urging him to join him in "training for jihad."

Authorities said Wednesday that Mehanna and his conspirators had contacted Maldonado about getting automatic weapons for their planned mall attacks.

Carney, who represented Mehanna in the previous case, said at the time: "If this is the FBI's idea of a terrorist, they are using a net that is designed to catch minnows instead of sharks." -Associated Press writers Jay Lindsay, Bob Salsberg and Russell Contreras in Boston and Devlin Barrett in Washington contributed to this report from Boston.

Daily NewsEgypt 2009

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Publication:Daily News Egypt (Egypt)
Date:Oct 22, 2009
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