A 21-year-old Atlanta man was arrested in a parking lot Wednesday after obtaining explosives, rifles, and rockets that he planned to use to “blow a hole” in the White House and stage a massive D.C. terror attack on Thursday, federal prosecutors say.
Hasher Jallal Taheb also allegedly planned to attack the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, and a “specific synagogue” with the newly acquired arsenal.
Unbeknownst to him, however, the men providing him with the weapons were actually undercover FBI agents.
According to a criminal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court of Northern Georgia, Taheb saw the alleged plot as a “martyrdom operation,” though he was unaware at the time that he was blabbing about it with two undercover FBI operatives.
Specifically, Taheb wanted to “blow a hole in the White House” with an AT-4 and target areas where the Secret Service and Department of Homeland Security operated in the building, prosecutors said.
His arrest caps off a months-long investigation that began in March 2018, when an unnamed community member reportedly contacted the FBI with concerns about how Taheb had changed his name, wanted to travel abroad, and had become “radicalized.” In August, Taheb put his car up for sale and an FBI informant showed interest in the vehicle. Upon meeting to discuss the vehicle, Taheb allegedly told the informant he planned on using the car money for a trip to territory held by the Islamic State and also said he wanted to attack the White House and Statue of Liberty.
By December, Taheb had allegedly arranged a meeting with the informant and another FBI agent—whom Taheb is said to have tasked with obtaining weapons for the attack. He presented the two operatives with a hand-drawn map of the White House’s West Wing, and claimed he was the leader of their “jamaat,” or group.
Taheb allegedly expressed his desire to make videos that would be published on social media before the attack in subsequent meetings. He also disseminated a 40-page manifesto that he’d written on “defensive jihad,” which he allegedly used as “justification for creating and leading his group to conduct violent attacks.”
According to the complaint, he discussed weapons logistics with the FBI agent and decided that they would sell their vehicles in order to obtain “three semi-automatic assault rifles, three explosive devices with remote initiation, and one AT-4.”
In text messages, Taheb referred to the weapons procural as “grocery shopping” and used a potato emoji and an arrow emoji to talk about the bombs, rifles, and the AT-4, prosecutors said. At one point, he asked the agent how many “lbs” each “potato” would be in a message, and the agent responded that each would fit inside of a backpack.
"Okay just wanted to know how far the cooking oil spreads when the fries are cut,” Taheb allegedly responded.
On Wednesday, just a day before the alleged plot was due to be carried out, Taheb, the informant, and the agent met in a parking lot in Buford, Georgia in order to exchange their cars for weapons. Taheb allegedly planned on loading up a rental car, taking a road trip with his “jamaat,” and doing some D.C. “sightseeing” before launching the attacks.
The three met other undercover FBI agents and were given rifles, explosives, and an AT-4 that were all inert. One of the undercover agents posing as a weapons provider told Taheb he had left money in his car. Taheb told the agent to keep it as a “donation.”
Taheb then climbed into the front passenger seat, with two undercover FBI operatives still in his vehicle, and was promptly placed under arrest.
According to Special Agent in Charge Chris Hacker of the FBI Atlanta Field Office, Taheb is believed to have acted alone—although the investigation is still active. U.S. Attorney Byung Pak also said in a statement that no threats were posed to targets in Georgia or the state’s Super Bowl festivities.