MIAMI (AP) - Seven people were arrested Thursday in connection
with the early stages of a plot to attack Chicago's Sears Tower and
other buildings in the U.S., including the FBI office here, a
federal law enforcement official said.
As part of the raids related to the arrests, FBI agents swarmed
a warehouse in Miami's Liberty City area, using a blowtorch to take
off a metal door. One neighbor said the suspects had been sleeping
in the warehouse while running what seemed to be a "military boot
The official told The Associated Press the alleged plotters were
mainly Americans with no apparent ties to al-Qaida or other foreign
terrorist organizations. He spoke on condition of anonymity so as
not to pre-empt news conferences planned for Friday in Washington
Miami U.S. Attorney R. Alexander Acosta said in a statement that
the investigation was an ongoing operation and that more details
would be released Friday.
"There is no imminent threat to Miami or any other area because
of these operations," said Richard Kolko, spokesman for FBI
headquarters in Washington. He declined further comment.
FBI Director Robert Mueller, questioned about the case during an
appearance on CNN's "Larry King Live," said he couldn't offer
many details because "it's an ongoing operation."
"We are conducting a number of arrests and searches" in Miami,
Mueller said, which were expected to be wrapped up Friday morning.
Residents living near the warehouse said the men taken into
custody described themselves as Muslims and had tried to recruit
young people to join their apparently militaristic group.
The residents said FBI agents spent several hours in the
neighborhood showing photos of the suspects and seeking
information. They said the men, who appeared to be in their teens
or 20s, had lived in the area about a year.
The men slept in the warehouse, said Tashawn Rose, 29. "They
would come out late at night and exercise. It seemed like a
military boot camp that they were working on there. They would come
out and stand guard."
She talked to one of the men about a month ago: "They seemed
brainwashed. They said they had given their lives to Allah."
Rose said the men tried to recruit her younger brother and
nephew for a karate class. "It was weird," she said.
Benjamin Williams, 17, said the group had young children with
them sometimes. Sometimes, he added, the men "would cover their
faces. Sometimes they would wear things on their heads, like
Xavier Smith, who attends the nearby United Christian Outreach,
said the men would often come by the church and ask for water.
"They were very private," said Smith, 33. "The spoke with
like an accent, sort of a Jamaican accent."
Gov. Jeb Bush was briefed on the situation Thursday, according
to his spokeswoman, Alia Faraj.
"We have great confidence in the federal, state and local law
enforcement agencies who are committed to keeping our country
safe," Faraj said.
She added that there has been greater communication between
state and federal agencies since the 2001 terror attacks.
The 110-floor Sears Tower is the nation's tallest building.
Security was ramped up after the Sept. 11 attacks, and the
103rd-floor skydeck was closed for about a month and a half.
A spokesman for Gov. Rod Blagojevich said Illinois officials had
been in contact with the FBI about the arrests and the
investigation. He would not comment further, referring additional
questions to the FBI.
The FBI's headquarters in Miami sits near a residential
neighborhood just east of Interstate 95.
A huge crowd - up to 250,000 people - was expected downtown
Friday for a parade to honor the NBA champion Miami Heat. Security
measures consistent with such an event were in place, city
officials said, and the raids were not expected to affect it.
Several terrorism investigations have had south Florida links.
Several of the Sept. 11 hijackers lived and trained in the area,
including ringleader Mohamed Atta, and several plots by
Cuban-Americans against Fidel Castro's government have been based
Jose Padilla, a former resident once accused of plotting to
detonate a radioactive bomb in the U.S., is charged in Miami with
being part of a support cell for Islamic extremists. Padilla's
trial is set for this fall.
Associated Press Writer Mark Sherman in Washington, D.C.,
contributed to this report.