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Crime

‘Terrorism comes in many forms’: FBI charge two in Ohio accused of plotting separate attacks

  • A man is accused of planning to attack a synagogue on behalf of Islamic State, while a woman allegedly wanted to strike a bar, a pipeline and a farm
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 December, 2018, 10:46am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 December, 2018, 10:46am

Federal authorities said they’ve charged two people involved in planning separate large-scale attacks – one who wanted to carry out a shooting at a synagogue and another who had been plotting a bar shooting and blowing up a pipeline.

While the alleged attacks were in the planning stages, there was never an immediate threat to the public, the FBI and Department of Justice said on Monday in a news conference announcing the charges.

The suspects had identified specific places they wanted to target, authorities said.

The two were under investigation for months and had talked about their plans with undercover FBI agents, according to the Justice Department.

“These cases demonstrate terrorism comes in many forms,” said Justin Herdman, the US attorney for northern Ohio.

One involved Damon Joseph, 21, from the Toledo suburb of Holland, who spent months planning a violent attack on behalf of Islamic State, and eventually settled on targeting a synagogue in his area, Herdman said.

The case began after Joseph posted photographs of weapons and messages in support of IS on his social media accounts, according to a news release about Joseph’s arrest from the US attorney’s office in Ohio’s Northern District.

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Undercover agents began corresponding with him. In some of these discussions, Joseph said he supported IS and made propaganda “in support of IS recruitment”, which included videos to recruit people, according to the release. And he expressed his support for violence, officials said.

He said he supported “martyrdom operations”, saying “what must be done, must be done” and “there will always be casualties of war”.

Joseph started focusing on killing Jews after a gunman killed 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue in October, Herdman said. Authorities said he told an undercover agent: “I admire what the guy did with the shooting actually … I can see myself carrying out this type of operation inshallah. They wouldn’t even expect in my area.”

He wanted to kill as many people as possible, including a rabbi, and make sure no one escaped, the justice department said.

On December 2, Joseph forwarded a document that specified his plans for an attack.

Two days later, he said he was deciding between two synagogues in the area, saying the choice depended on “Which one will have the most people, what time and what day. Go big or go home.”

Joseph was arrested Friday after he received two AR-15 rifles from an undercover agent and was charged with trying to provide material support to IS.

There was no telephone listing for Joseph and court records did not indicate whether he has a lawyer.

FBI Acting Special Agent in Charge Jeff Fortunato said it did not appear Joseph was working with anyone else.

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“In a matter of months, Damon Joseph progressed from radicalised, virtual jihadist to attack planner,” said Fortunato.

Authorities also arrested Elizabeth Lecron, 23, also from Toledo, on Monday after they said she bought bomb-making materials. She was charged with transporting explosives and explosive material with the purpose of harming others.

Lecron had been talking about carrying out several different types of violent attacks, including telling undercover agents in August that she and an associate had come up with a plan to commit a mass killing at a Toledo bar, officials said.

She also discussed attacking a livestock farm, her workplace and bombing a pipeline, according to authorities who also said Lecron told agents she was making a pipe bomb.

Lecron had corresponded with Charleston, South Carolina church shooter Dylann Roof.

Investigators found a number of social media posts by Lecron glorifying mass murderers, including Roof and the Columbine High School shooters.

She visited Columbine High School this year and exchanged letters with Roof, trying to send Nazi literature to the avowed white supremacist, according to an affidavit filed in the case.

Roof was sentenced to death for the 2015 killing of nine worshippers at an African-American church in Charleston.

On Friday, she bought 0.9kg (two pounds) of a muzzleloading gunpowder and 665 screws at shops in Perrysburg, Ohio, after which police arrested her.

Associated Press, Reuters, The Washington Post