ATLANTA — A Georgia man who traded his car for an antitank rocket, guns and explosives in a plot to storm the White House is under arrest, authorities said.
Hasher Jallal Taheb, 21, of Cumming, was arrested in an FBI sting operation Wednesday and is charged with attempting to damage or destroy a building owned by the United States using fire or an explosive, U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak said.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether Taheb had an attorney who could comment on the allegations.
The FBI set up the sting after a local law enforcement agency said in March that it got a tip from someone who said Taheb had become radicalized, changed his name and planned to travel abroad, according to an FBI agent’s affidavit filed in court. A confidenctial FBI source and an undercover agent both made contact with Taheb after he advertised his vehicle for sale in August.
Special Agent Chris Hacker, who oversees the FBI office in Atlanta, said they believe Taheb was acting on his own.
The affidavit says Taheb told the FBI source in October that he planned to travel abroad for “hijra,” which the agent wrote refers to traveling to territory controlled by the Islamic State. Because he didn’t have a passport, he couldn’t travel abroad and told the FBI source that he wanted to carry out an attack in the U.S. against the White House and the Statue of Liberty.
He later mentioned other sites he’d also like to target, including the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial and a specific synagogue, the affidavit says.
He met with the undercover agent and the FBI source multiple times last month and was also in frequent contact using an encrypted messaging application, the affidavit says.
During one meeting with the agent and the source, Taheb “advised that if they were to go to another country, they would be one of many, but if they stayed in the United States, they could do more damage,” the affidavit says. Taheb “explained that jihad was an obligation, that he wanted to do as much damage as possible, and that he expected to be a ‘martyr,’ meaning he expected to die during the attack.”
At another meeting, he showed the undercover agent a hand-drawn diagram of the ground floor of the West Wing of the White House and detailed a plan for attack, the affidavit says. He asked the undercover agent to obtain the weapons and explosives needed to carry out the attack, and they discussed selling or exchanging their cars to pay for them.
Taheb told the undercover agent they needed a “base” where they could regroup and where he could record a video to motivate people: “He stated he would be the narrator, clips of oppressed Muslims would be shown, and American and Israeli flags would be burned in the background.”
Last week, Taheb told the undercover agent he wanted to pick up weapons this week and drive directly to Washington to carry out the attack, investigators said.
Taheb said they would approach the White House from the back road, causing a distraction for police and then would proceed into the White House, using an antitank weapon to blow open a door and then take down as many people and do as much damage as possible, the affidavit says.
Despite his detailed attack plans, Taheb told an undercover FBI agent he had never shot a gun but could learn easily and also said he had watched some videos of how grenades explode, the affidavit says.
Taheb met with the FBI source and undercover agent on Wednesday in a parking lot in Buford to exchange their cars for semi-automatic assault rifles, three explosive devices with remote detonators and an anti-tank rocket, the affidavit says.
A second FBI source met them and inspected the vehicles, and a second FBI undercover agent arrived in a tractor trailer with weapons and explosives that had been rendered inert by the FBI. The undercover agent and Taheb talked about the guns, how to arm and detonate the explosives and how to use the antitank rocket, the affidavit says.
Taheb and the undercover agent and FBI source whom he believed to be part of his group turned over their car keys to the second confidential source and then loaded the inert explosives and guns into a rental vehicle, the affidavit says. Then, after they got into the car and closed the doors, agents arrested Taheb.