(CN) – Two Chicago-area men were arrested and charged with conspiring to aid terrorists, federal prosecutors said. David Coleman Headley, 49, and Tahawwur Hussain Rana, 48, allegedly wanted to target the Danish newspaper that published cartoons of the prophet Muhammad in 2005.
The FBI arrested David Coleman Headley on Oct. 3 at O’Hare airport before he boarded a flight to Philadelphia, en route to Pakistan, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said in a statement issued by his Chicago office. Headley, a U.S. citizen who changed his name from Daood Gilani in 2006, was charged with conspiring to commit terrorist acts involving murder and maiming outside the United States and conspiring to provide material support to overseas terrorism. If convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison.
Rana, a native of Pakistan and citizen of Canada, was arrested at his home on Oct. 18. Rana owns several businesses, including First World Immigration Services, which has offices on Devon Avenue in Chicago, and in New York and Toronto. He was charged with conspiring to provide material support to a foreign terrorism conspiracy that involved Headley and at least three other people in Pakistan, Fitzgerald said in his statement.
The men have been in federal custody since they were arrested. The complaints were temporarily sealed due to continuing investigation, Fitzgerald’s office said.
Prosecutors say Headley, 49, and Rana, 48, attended the same military school in Hasan Abdal, Pakistan, and belonged to a group that calls itself “abdalians.”
Headley conspired with two people who have ties to terrorist organizations to attack the “facilities and employees” of the Danish newspaper, and called their plans the “Mickey Mouse Project” in a series of coded messages, prosecutors say.
Investigators that Headley, Rana, an unnamed co-conspirator and Ilyas Kashmiri likened success in their mission to receiving religious awards and becoming “rich.” They also described their targets as “investments” and “business.”
Kashmiri allegedly is an operational chief with Harakat-ul Jihad Islami, a Pakistani-based terrorist organization with links to al Qaeda. The unnamed co-conspirator is said to work with Kashmiri and Lashkar-e-Taiba, another Pakistani-based terrorist organization.
Investigators say Rana organized two trips that Headley took to Denmark in January and July this year, where he conducted surveillance on potential targets.
While visiting the Jyllands-Posten offices in Copenhagen and Arhus, officials say, Headley told newspaper employees that he was with First World Immigration Services, Rana’s Chicago firm. Headley allegedly told newspaper staff that First World was considering opening offices in Denmark and might be interested in advertising with the newspaper.
Authorities say that the plot, which posed “no immanent danger” to the Chicago area, was unrelated to the recent terror plots that have been alleged recently in Boston, New York, Colorado, Texas and central Illinois.
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