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Friday, May 24, 2024 | Back issues
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Homegrown ISIL Attack on Army Base Foiled

TOPEKA, Kan. (CN) - FBI agents on Friday arrested a Topeka man just moments before he was set to attack a Kansas U.S. Army base and kill military personnel in a suicide bombing in the name of ISIL.

John T. Booker, Jr., aka Mohammed Abdullah Hassan, was charged with one count of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, one count of attempting to damage property by means of an explosive and one count of attempting to provide material support to the ISIL, the acronym used to refer to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Police arrested Booker, 20, without incident Friday morning near Manhattan, Kan., as he completed "final preparations" to detonate a vehicle bomb targeting U.S. military personnel at the Fort Riley military base located between Junction City and Manhattan, according to a statement from U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom, District of Kansas.

The explosive device that Booker planned to use in the attack was, in fact, inert.

FBI evidence response teams are executing search warrants related to the case.

"John Booker attempted to attack U.S. military personnel on U.S. soil purportedly in the name of ISIL," said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Carlin. "Thanks to the efforts of the law enforcement community, we were able to safely disrupt this threat to the brave men and women who serve our country."

Booker spent months discussing multiple plans before hatching a plot that to carry out a suicide bombing mission, according to Grissom.

The man allegedly acquired components for a car bomb, rented a storage locker to store parts of the explosive device, identified Fort Riley as his target and told others of his "commitment to trigger the device himself and become a martyr," Grissom said.

Booker also produced a propaganda video warning the "American people" to get their loved ones "out of the military now" because "the Islamic State is coming for them," according to the criminal complaint.

"From inside, whether it be in their homes, whether it be on a base like this, whether it be in the recruiting stations, whether it be in the streets," Booker said in the video allegedly made in the name of ISIL.

Booker told a confidential informant that they "could capture and kill an American soldier immediately after filming the video," according to the criminal complaint.

He also allegedly told another person that detonating a suicide bomb is his "number one aspiration" because he "couldn't be captured, all evidence would be destroyed, and he would be guaranteed to hit his target."

Booker targeted Fort Riley because "the post is famous and there are a lot of soldiers stationed there," according to Grissom.

Recruited by the U.S. Army in 2014, Booker was actually scheduled to report for basic training last April. The Army denied him entry, though, after he posted troubling messages on his Facebook page that said, "I will soon be leaving you forever so goodbye! I'm going to wage jihad and hopes [sic] that I die...Getting ready to be killed in jihad is a HUGE adrenaline rush!! I am so nervous. NOT because I'm scared to die but I am eager to meet my lord."

A citizen reported the posts, and FBI agents interviewed Booker the following day. Booker admitted to agents that he enlisted in the United States Army with the intent to commit an insider attack against American soldiers, according to the criminal complaint.

"Booker stated that if he went overseas and was told to kill a fellow Muslim, he would rather turn around and shoot the person giving orders," the complaint states.

He had allegedly hatched several plans for committing jihad once enlisted, including "firing at other soldiers while at basic training at the firing range," according to the FBI agent's statement in the complaint. Booker did not intend to kill "privates" but instead wanted to target someone with power, and told agents that he did not intend to use large guns but a "small gun or a sword" instead.

According to the complaint, during the subsequent FBI investigation, which began last year, Booker told a confidential informant that he was unafraid because "I was captured by FBI before ...because I was with al Qaida." He also commented to the informant about "how peaceful martyrs look after they die" and said he believed that martyrs' bodies don't decay after death and that their blood "smells like musk."

In March 2015, Booker enlisted the help of the FBI confidential informant with purchasing components for a homemade explosive device.

On April 8, while under FBI surveillance, Booker met with the informant at his storage unit, which held a large amount of inert explosive material. Booker circled three potential target buildings on a map and drew arrows to designate the route that two could take through the base.

Booker told the informant that he wanted to make sure all his debts were paid so that he "could die a Shaheed" - martyr - and enter paradise, according to the complaint. "Debts or not, I am going to do this Friday," Booker allegedly said.

He and the informant then drove the explosive device to an area near Fort Riley that Booker believed to be a little-used utility gate that would allow them to enter Fort Riley undetected. FBI agents arrested Booker while was making final connections to arm the inert device at the gate.

According to the FBI, there was never any breach of Fort Riley. "Command staff at Fort Riley has been working hand-in-hand with law enforcement to ensure the utmost security and protection for the men and women who serve our country, and the surrounding community that supports the base," said FBI Special Agent in Charge Eric Jackson.

A second Topeka man, Alexander E. Blair, 28, is also charged with one count of failing to report a felony.

Blair allegedly knew of the plot by Booker to detonate a bomb at Fort Riley but failed to notify authorities, according to the criminal complaint. Blair also loaned Booker money to rent a storage unit to hold components of the explosive device that Booker planned to use in the attack.

Blair faces a maximum penalty of three years in prison if convicted.

If convicted, Booker faces a maximum penalty of life in prison. Booker made his first appearance on Friday in U.S. District Court in Topeka.

Prosecuting the case are Assistant U.S. Attorney Tony Mattivi, Assistant U.S. Attorney David Smith, and Trial Attorneys Josh Parecki and Rebecca Magnone of the National Security Division's Counterterrorism Section.

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