A 23-year-old man from Forsyth County, Georgia, has pleaded guilty to allegedly plotting an explosive “jihad” attack on the White House, the U.S. Department of Justice announced in a press release April 1.
Hasher Jallal Taheb pleaded guilty to a charge of attempting to destroy, by fire or an explosive, a building owned by or leased to the United States. Taheb and the government agreed that he should receive a 15-year jail sentence as part of the plea agreement.
According to the press release, he had also planned to target the Statue of Liberty, Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial and a synagogue prior to his arrest on Jan. 16, 2019.
The would-be jihadist was apprehended during a meeting with undercover FBI special agents at a store in Buford where he expected to obtain semi-automatic assault rifles, explosive devices, and an anti-tank weapon.
According to U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia Byung J. “BJay” Pak, a member of the Atlanta community first reported concerns that Taheb had become radicalized and was making plans to travel abroad to a local law enforcement agency, which then contacted the FBI in March 2018.
A subsequent undercover operation conducted by the FBI found that Taheb had applied for a U.S. passport three months later, in June 2018, and that he had begun planning prospective “jihad” attacks in the United States on a number of significant landmarks.
In a meeting with the informant and an undercover FBI agent on Dec. 2, 2018, Taheb allegedly stated that “they could do more damage” in the United States because they would be “one of many,” if they went abroad. He also allegedly said that “jihad was an obligation,” and that he wanted to be a “martyr” and “cause as much damage as possible,” according to a criminal complaint (pdf) filed in 2019.
Undercover FBI special agents allegedly met with Taheb in January 2019, where he produced sketches of the White House and described the types of weapons he planned to use in the attacks, including semi-automatic weapons, improvised explosive devices, an anti-tank weapon and hand grenades. They arrested him shortly after and he is due to be sentenced on June 23, 2020 before U.S. District Judge Mark H. Cohen.
“Taheb hatched a dangerous plan that would have resulted in unimaginable injury,” Pak said in a statement. “We are grateful to community members who noticed his dangerous evolution and alerted law enforcement. Along with our federal, state, and local partners, we will remain vigilant in order to disrupt these types of attacks before they happen.”
Authorities said prior to his arrest, Taheb had demonstrated an interest in the teachings of lslamic lecturer and a leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Anwar al-Awlaki. The Yemen-based terrorist had claimed responsibility for terrorist acts against targets in the United States, Saudi Arabia, Korea, and Yemen since its inception in January 2009. Al-Awlaki was killed by an American drone strike in Yemen in September 2011.