Two men intent on attacking a military recruiting station to inspire Muslims to defend their religion from US actions abroad were snared by FBI agents in a terror plot sting, authorities have said.
Abu Khalid Abdul-Latif, also known as Joseph Davis, and Walli Mujahidh, also known as Frederick Domingue, were arrested on Wednesday night after they arrived at a Washington warehouse garage to pick up machine guns to use in the attack, an FBI agent said in a criminal complaint filed in US District Court.
But the machine guns had been rendered inoperable by agents and posed no risk to the public.
The suspects, who could face life in prison if convicted, appeared in federal court in Seattle on Thursday. Detention hearings were set for next Wednesday. Their court-appointed defence lawyers declined to comment.
Authorities learned of the plot early this month when a third person recruited to participate alerted the Seattle Police Department, the complaint said. Investigators immediately began monitoring the men and the confidential informant continued to string them along by promising to obtain weapons.
The building, the Military Entrance Processing Station in East Marginal Way, Seattle, also houses a day care centre. Recruits for all military branches are screened and processed there.
The Homeland Security Department said in a May 31 assessment with other organisations that it did not think it likely there would be co-ordinated terrorist attacks against military recruiting and National Guard facilities.
The agencies agreed, however, that lone offenders or groups would continue to try to launch attacks. "Our review of attempted attacks during the past two years suggests that lone offenders currently present the greatest threat," said the assessment.
In audio and video recordings, the Seattle suspects discussed the plot at length, including how to time their attack at military recruits, such as by tossing grenades in the cafeteria, the complaint said.
"The key thing to remember here is, is we are not targeting anybody innocent - that means old people, women out of uniform, any children," Abdul-Latif is quoted as saying. "Just people who wear the green for the kaffir army, that's who we're going after."