A Cumming man who had allegedly radicalized and planned to be a “martyr” laid out his plans to undercover FBI agents for attacks on the White House, other monuments and a synagogue, prior to being arrested, according to an FBI affidavit.
Hasher Jallal Taheb, 21, was charged with “attempt to damage by means of an explosive” after the Joint Terrorism Task Force received a tip from the community.
“As articulated in the affidavit supporting the complaint, his alleged intent was to attack the White House and other targets of opportunity in the Washington, D.C. area,” according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
A confidential informant, one undercover agent and Taheb met Wednesday, Jan. 16, in a Buford parking lot to exchange vehicles for weapons, according to the FBI special agent’s affidavit.
The weapons he allegedly planned to use included “semi-automatic weapons, improvised explosive devices, an AT-4 (shoulder-fired anti-armor weapon) and hand grenades.”
Another undercover agent arrived with the weapons and explosives in a tractor trailer. After all of them loaded a rental vehicle and got in the car, the officers arrested Taheb.
The tip from the community back in March noted Taheb had allegedly “become radicalized, changed his name and made plans to travel abroad,” according to the affidavit.
An FBI confidential informant met with Taheb in October regarding Taheb’s ad to sell his car.
Taheb wanted to use the funds to travel for “hijra,” which the FBI agent said refers to territory controlled by the Islamic State.
“Because he had no passport, Taheb could not travel abroad, and he advised (the confidential informant) that he wished to conduct an attack in the United States against targets such as the White House and the Statue of Liberty. Taheb advised (the confidential informant) that jihad was the best deed in Islam and the peak of Islam. Taheb further stated that it was not complicated at all to do jihad today,” according to the affidavit.
In other meetings with FBI informants or undercover agents, Taheb allegedly told them “jihad was an obligation,” that he wanted to do maximum damage and expected to be a “martyr,” according to the affidavit.
He allegedly showed them his plan for attacking the White House’s West Wing in composition book sketches, but Taheb later expanded the plans to the Washington Monument, the White House, the Lincoln Memorial and a synagogue, according to the affidavit.
Taheb also reportedly created a channel on a video-sharing website to post a video before the attack that would include “clips of oppressed Muslims” as well as American and Israeli flags burning.
Communications between Taheb and the FBI agents continued through Google Docs and an encrypted social media messaging app through December and early January.
In his messages to the undercover agent, the word “groceries” was used as a code for weapons and explosives and “potato” for ordered explosives. A message about “how far the cooking oil spreads when the fries are cut” was allegedly code for the bomb blast’s radius.
“Taheb stated that he wanted to obtain the weapons on or about Jan. 15, travel to Washington, D.C., and conduct the attack on or about Jan. 17,” according to the affidavit.
Taheb told the agents he had “never shot a gun, but could learn easily,” according to the affidavit.
“Taheb later noted that he wanted to drive on the road located behind the White House, pull up in a car, cause a distraction, and keep going until the full house was cleared or until they could no longer proceed. Taheb stated the backpacks were for destruction and ‘martyrdom,’” according to the affidavit.
Taheb attended Forsyth Central High School for two years, officials say, and graduated in 2015.
Law enforcement, reportedly including representatives from the FBI, ICE and the U.S. Secret Service, conducted a warranted search on Wednesday of Taheb’s south Forsyth residence on Horseshoe Creek Lane.
At Wednesday’s press conference, Special Agent in Charge Chris Hacker said that the investigation is ongoing, but at this stage it is believed that Taheb was acting alone.
According to Forsyth County Sheriff Ron Freeman, Taheb appeared in U.S. District Court in downtown Atlanta on Wednesday afternoon before he was placed into the custody of the U.S. Marshal’s Service.
The Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office and Gwinnett County Police assisted in this case.
“Because the FBI, U.S. Secret Service, and numerous Federal, state and law enforcement partners are active participants in the JTTF, all potential threats have been neutralized and were under control from the inception of this case. Again, I want to clarify that there were no threats posed to any targets located in Northern District of Georgia, nor was the upcoming Super Bowl a target of his alleged activity,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Forsyth County News reporter Alexander Popp contributed to this report.