LOS ANGELES (AFP) - A US Army veteran who was allegedly plotting a large-scale terror attack near Los Angeles as revenge for the recent mass shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, has been arrested, authorities said on Monday (April 29).
Mark Steven Domingo, 26, who had combat experience in Afghanistan and professed to be Muslim, faces federal terror-related charges for plotting to detonate an improvised explosive device (IED) at a white nationalist rally in Long Beach this past weekend with the aim of causing mass casualties, officials said.
Domingo was arrested on Friday after receiving what he thought was a live bomb packed with nails that was delivered by an undercover agent.
According to court documents, Domingo expressed support in online posts and conversations with an FBI source for violent jihad and aspired to become a martyr by seeking retribution for attacks against Muslims.
After considering various options - including targeting Jews, churches, and police officers - Domingo decided to detonate an IED at the Long Beach rally, which ended up not taking place, authorities said.
"This investigation successfully disrupted a very real threat posed by a trained combat soldier who repeatedly stated he wanted to cause the maximum number of casualties," said US Attorney Nick Hanna.
Domingo, who served in Afghanistan between September 2012 and January 2013, in one message posted to a private group online in early March referred to a mass shooting in Las Vegas in 2017 that left 58 dead.
"America needs another Vegas event... that would give them the taste of terror they gladly spread all over the world," he said.
In another posting on March 14, he wrote: "There were mosque shootings in New Zealand. There must be retribution." Authorities said he was referring to the New Zealand mosques massacre the previous day in which 50 people were killed.
After several weeks of plotting with an undercover FBI informant and considering various targets, Domingo finally set his sights on the rally in Long Beach and bought several hundred three-inch (7.6-centimetre) nails to be used as shrapnel inside an explosive device "because they would be long enough to penetrate the human body and puncture internal organs," the complaint says.
He was arrested after an undercover officer handed him inert devices and the pair traveled to the Long Beach park where the rally was set to take place to conduct surveillance.
"I'm extremely glad to be announcing that we interdicted a potential terrorist attack, rather than outlining the FBI's response to yet another tragedy," said Paul Delacourt, assistant director in charge of the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office.
"At no time was the public in danger and there is currently no known threat to public safety." Domingo has been charged with providing and attempting to provide material support to terrorists. He faces up to 15 years in prison on the charge.
He was due to make an initial appearance on court later Monday.