WASHINGTON (AP) — A group of young men seized in a Miami warehouse have been charged in a federal indictment with conspiring with al-Qaida to "levy war against the United States" by committing acts of violence including blowing up Chicago's Sears Tower.
The seven individuals indicted by a federal grand jury were taken into custody Thursday when authorities swarmed the warehouse in the Liberty City area, removing a metal door with a blow torch. The indictment also alleges plans to blow a federal building in Miami in conjunction with the al-Qaida terrorist network.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and other top-level Bush administration officials scheduled a news conference for later Friday and a similar briefing was in Miami. The seven were expected to appear in court later Friday.
According to the indictment handed up Thursday, a young man identified as Narseal Batiste, beginning in November 2005, recruited and trained the others "for a mission to wage war against the United States government," including a plot to destroy the Sears Tower.
To obtain money and support for their mission, the conspirators sought help from al-Qaida, pledged an oath to the terrorist organization and supported an al-Qaida plot to destroy FBI buildings, the four-count indictment charged.
Batiste met several times in December 2005 with a person purporting to be an al-Qaida member and asked for boots, uniforms, machine guns, radios, vehicles and $50,000 in cash to help him build an "'Islamic Army' to wage jihad'," the indictment said. It said that Batiste said he would use his "soldiers" to destroy the Sears Tower.
In February 2006, it said, Batiste told the "al-Qaida representative" that he and his five soldiers wanted to attend al-Qaida training and planned a "full ground war" against the United States in order to "kill all the devils we can." His mission would "be just as good or greater than 9/11," the indictment accused Batiste of boasting.
The seven defendants were charged with conspiring to "maliciously damage and destroy by means of an explosive" the FBI building in North Miami Beach and the Sears Tower in Chicago.
They were are also charged with conspiring "to levy war against the government of the United States, and to oppose by force the authority thereof."
Residents living near the warehouse said the men taken into custody described themselves as Muslims and had tried to recruit young people to join their group. Rose said they tried to recruit her younger brother and nephew for a karate class.
She said she talked to one of the men about a month ago. "They seemed brainwashed," she said. "They said they had given their lives to Allah."
Residents said FBI agents spent several hours in the neighborhood showing photos of the suspects and seeking information. They said the men had lived in the area for about a year.
Benjamin Williams, 17, said the group sometimes had young children with them. At times, he added, the men "would cover their faces. Sometimes they would wear things on their heads, like turbans."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.