US man pleads guilty to plotting to attack White House with anti-tank missile

Hasher Jallal Taheb, who faces up to 20 years in prison told an undercover FBI agent that he wanted to blow a hole in the White House.
Hasher Jallal Taheb, who faces up to 20 years in prison told an undercover FBI agent that he wanted to blow a hole in the White House.PHOTO: NYTIMES

ATLANTA, UNITED STATES (NYTIMES) - A Georgia man who sought to obtain an anti-tank missile pleaded guilty this week to plotting terrorist attacks on the White House, the Statue of Liberty and other landmarks, federal prosecutors said.

The man, Hasher Jallal Taheb, 23, of Cumming, Georgia, faces up to 20 years in prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years after accepting a plea agreement Wednesday (April 1) in US District Court in Atlanta, the authorities said.

Taheb emerged as a suspect in March 2018, when local police received a tip from someone in his community saying Taheb had become radicalised, changed his name and planned to travel abroad, the FBI said.

When Taheb later advertised his vehicle for sale, an FBI informant said he was interested in buying it. That is when Taheb revealed his plans to carry out terrorist attacks on targets that included the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial and a synagogue in Washington, authorities said.

The informant introduced Taheb to an undercover FBI agent, to whom he showed a hand-drawn diagram of the West Wing of the White House, a criminal affidavit said.

Federal agents said they arrested Taheb in January 2019 when he showed up in a store parking lot in Buford, Georgia, to obtain an AT-4 anti-tank weapon, explosives and assault rifles.

"Taheb planned to conduct a terrorist attack on the White House as part of what he claimed was his obligation to engage in jihad," Mr John Demers, an assistant attorney-general for national security, said in a statement Wednesday. "And that was just one of the iconic American landmarks he wanted to target."

Taheb pleaded guilty to attempted destruction of US government property by fire or explosive, and he is scheduled to be sentenced June 23, according to court filings.

His lawyers did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday.

Taheb told the informant that he wanted to do as much damage as possible and that he expected to be a "martyr," Mr Tyler Krueger, an FBI special agent, wrote in the criminal affidavit.

Taheb also told an undercover FBI agent that he had created a channel on a video-sharing website to post clips before the attacks, the affidavit said. The videos included images of oppressed Muslims with American and Israeli flags being burned in the background.

Mr Krueger wrote in the affidavit that Taheb discussed his plot to attack the White House in detail.

"Specifically, he described his plan to use the AT-4 to blow a hole in the White House so that the group could enter," Mr Krueger wrote.

FBI officials said Wednesday that tips from the public were crucial in thwarting the kinds of attacks that Taheb had been planning.