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Teen planned to blow up Dallas skyscraper in terror attack

DALLAS — A Jordanian teenager accused of plotting to commit jihad by blowing up a 60-story Dallas landmark was polite, soft-spoken and stoic Friday as he appeared before a federal magistrate.

Hosam Maher Husein Smadi, 19, waived his right to a detention hearing and was assigned a court-appointed attorney during the 20-minute hearing before U.S. MagistrateIrma C. Ramirez.

The short, slightly built defendant was dressed all in black and, at one point, bowed to the judge when she asked him to speak up. He is charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction.

AttorneyRichard Andersonof Dallas was appointed to represent Smadi, who is scheduled to return to court Oct. 5 for a probable cause hearing.

Undercover agents with the FBI tricked Smadi, 19, into thinking he was detonating a bomb placed in an SUV parked beneath the Fountain Place skyscraper on Thursday before they arrested him, according to court documents. The detonating device was inert, the Justice Department said in a news release.

“”The identification and apprehension of this defendant, who was acting alone, is a sobering reminder that there are people among us who want to do us grave harm,”” U.S. AttorneyJames T. Jackssaid in the news release.

Undercover agents met with Smadi at least 10 times and talked to him at least 40 times while he hatched his plot to commit jihad, or holy war, against the “”Romans (Christians) and Jews,”” an arrest warrant affidavit says. The FBI said Smadi was in the country illegally and lived and worked in Italy, about 45 minutes south of Dallas.

Federal agents said that they discovered Smadi within a group of online terrorists and that he stood out because of his willingness to conduct terrorist attacks.

“”This is not related to any other investigation,”” saidMark White, an FBI spokesman. “”This is a stand-alone terrorist.””

There are ongoing investigations into other possible terrorism plots in New York and Colorado.

“”This just goes to show that this type of thing can happen anywhere,”” saidDanny Defenbaugh, a Dallas security consultant and former FBI agent. “”That’s why everyone has to remain aware and diligent.””

After the hearing, Anderson spoke briefly outside the Earle Cabell Federal Building and seemed to indicate that Smadi might have relatives in the United States.

Anderson said he had just been assigned the case and knew little more than what he had read in the media. But he described Smadi as a frightened 19-year-old who is practically alone in the country.

Anderson represented one of the defendants in the 2004 trial of a Richardson, Texas, family accused of conspiring in illegal computer shipments to the Middle East through their company, Infocom Corp.

Smadi was returned to the custody of U.S. marshals after the hearing.

Authorities say Smadi told undercover officials that he wanted to blow up a credit card center, choosing the Wells Fargo Bank in Fountain Place. “”Millions of people will incur losses,”” said Smadi, according to the affidavit. “”Unemployment, poverty, hunger, and a strike to the head of the government. Don’t forget the psychological impacts on the loss of this beautiful building.””

Authorities say Smadi originally talked to undercover agents who posed as members of a sleeper terrorist cell and one who masqueraded as a senior member of al-Qaida. Federal agents said Smadi’s love for al-Qaida, Iraq, Palestine and Afghanistan; his allegiance toOsama bin Laden; and his willingness to spend the rest of his life in prison or die in the attempt to kill Americans was evident in his speech, the affidavit says.

“”In the name of God, the gracious and merciful, this is my vow to you, my brother, that I am ready,”” Smadi said, according to the affidavit. “”And if you were a lover of jihad as I am, then, by God, I am ready for the jihad life.””

Federal agents told Smadi that he did not have to die to benefit jihad, but he insisted, according to the affidavit. An FBI undercover agent told Smadi that if he had any doubts, he should tell them before they revealed their secrets, and he should practice jihad in a less dangerous way. Smadi replied that he would kill and behead the backslider, authorities say. “”I have chosen to be a mujahid with my self, my blood, soul and body,”” Smadi allegedly said.

The affidavit lays out a sequence of events leading to Thursday’s arrest. At a July 24 meeting with an FBI undercover operative at a Dallas hotel, Smadi stated his desire to attack the buildings belonging to the biggest credit card companies in America. Smadi told the undercover agent that the attack would be done by remote detonation of timed explosives. Smadi said he would case the building before delivering the bomb, to evaluate security.

During that same meeting, Smadi used his laptop computer to identify and map possible targets. The National Guard Armory and the “”Dallas”” airport were selected and then discarded as targets thought to be too well protected.

Smadi later cased Fountain Place and said the basement level would be a good location to plant the bomb. Smadi said the bathroom had a locking door with a drop ceiling that could be accessed by standing on the toilet.

During an Aug. 26 meeting, Smadi said he would have preferred to do the attack on Sept. 11, but decided to wait until after the religious holiday Ramadan, which would end Sept. 20.

“”I will plant it in the … foundations … exactly under the building … when it explodes, it will shake the foundations so that the building, if it is heavy in weight, tons, all that will come down,”” Smadi said, according to the affidavit.

On Thursday, Smadi drove the Ford Explorer rigged with the fake bomb through downtown Dallas, the affidavit says. He set the timer, flipped the power switch, then locked and left the vehicle, walking to where an FBI undercover agent was parked. The agent drove several blocks and watched as Smadi attempted to remotely detonate the bomb with a cell phone. The agent offered Smadi ear plugs, which he refused, saying that he wanted to hear the blast.

Friends told The Dallas Morning News that Smadi had lived in Italy, Texas, for about a year. He worked long hours as a cashier at Texas Best Smokehouse in Italy, the newspaper reported.

The newspaper said that Smadi, known to his friends as Sam, lived alone in a housing development along U.S. 77.


(McClatchy Newspapers correspondentBill Millercontributed to this report.)


(c) 2009, Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

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Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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