At about the same time the charge against Tarek Mehanna was announced, an Ohio man was sentenced to 20 years in prison for conspiring to kill people abroad - including American troops serving in Iraq.
According to an affidavit signed Tuesday by FBI Special Agent Heidi Williams, Mehanna and two other men traveled to Pakistan in 2002 and Yemen in 2004 in hopes of finding "a terrorist training camp to learn how to conduct and subsequently engage in jihad."
Both trips ended in failure, however. And, like the case of North Carolina convert Daniel Patrick Boyd, investigators say their frustration at being unable to wage jihad abroad prompted the men to discuss attacks in the America. They discussed targeting two high ranking government officials for assassination. Those conversations never really progressed. However, talk of taking automatic weapons to shoot up malls led to a series of actions, and at least one trip in hopes of securing the guns, Williams wrote.
Much of the government's case against Mehanna is based on information secured through two cooperating witnesses, including one who originally shared Mehanna's dream "to die on the battlefield.
All of them wanted to participate in jihad," Williams wrote. This witness got cold feet upon arriving in the United Arab Emirates en route to Yemen for training in 2004 and used his family's pleas as an excuse to back out. The other member of the group, Ahmed Abousamra, is believed to have fled to Syria after the FBI interviewed him in 2006.
The men debated some acts of terrorism, including suicide bombings. Abousamra is portrayed as the most extreme of the group, endorsing suicide bombings and citing Islamic teaching as justification.
Abousamra justified attacking civilians "because they paid taxes to support the [U.S.] government, and because they were Kufar (non-believers)."
It was Abousamra who made contact with the terrorist group Lashkar e-Taiba during a 2002 trip to Pakistan, Williams wrote. But the LeT turned him down because he was an Arab. A similar overture to the Taliban was rejected because the group lacked fighting experience.