The Edge of Terrorism
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|Abha Shankar||April 10th 2015|
A year ago, he wanted to join the U.S. Army to kill his fellow soldiers. When that didn't work, 20-year-old John T. Booker repeatedly expressed his desire to join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or commit a suicide attack in the United States on the terrorist group's behalf.
Booker, a convert to Islam who changed his name to Mohammed Abdullah Hassan, said American soldiers are enemies to Muslims, and the Quran sanctions killing enemies anywhere.
FBI agents arrested Booker Friday morning just outside Fort Riley, a military base near Manhattan, Kan. He was driving a van loaded with what he thought was 1,000 pounds of explosives. In fact, the bomb was rendered inert by FBI agents and informants. He is charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, attempting to blow up government property and providing material support to the Islamic State.
In conversations with an FBI informant, Booker repeatedly expressed his intent to kill. "I will kill any kuffar. I will follow any place ... if I was with [the Islamic State] and they said look, we are going to the White House right now ... I would go with them without any question," he said in November.
He was rejected by the Army in March 2014, after someone alerted authorities to Facebook posts extolling violent jihad and expressing his desire to kill American soldiers. "I will soon be leaving you forever so goodbye! I'm going to wage jihad and hopes that I die." In another post the same month, he said: "Getting ready to be killed in jihad is a HUGE adrenaline rush!!! I am so nervous. NOT because I'm scared to die but I am eager to meet my lord."
Booker told FBI agents at that time he wanted to enlist "to commit an insider attack against American soldiers like Major Nidal Hassan had done at Fort Hood, Texas."
For reasons that aren't clear, Booker was left alone until October, when an informant started talking with him. Booker suggested several ideas for terrorist attacks, mentioning Fort Riley as an attractive target "because the post is famous and there are a lot of soldiers stationed there."
He also said "he wanted to see the fear in the kuffar's eyes as he pushed the button and they ran for their lives," the criminal complaint filed Friday said.
Last month, Booker said he wanted to emulate a suicide truck bombing by an American known as "Jihadi Joe." Booker bought supplies to make a car-bomb from a list the informants provided. He made two martyrdom videos, including one in which he gave his bayah [pledge of allegiance] to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi and urged Muslims to support them.
The other video, recorded Wednesday, shows Booker describing his 1,000-pound ammonium nitrate bomb. "Inshallah, this will kill many kuffar [nonbelievers]. This message is to you America. You sit in your homes and you think that this war is just over in Iraq . . . we today we will bring the Islamic State straight to your doorstep. You think this is just a game ... when this bomb blows up and kills as many kuffar as possible, maybe then you'll realize it."
Agents arrested him just outside Fort Riley, at a little-used gate Booker thought would get him onto the base.
He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted.