Seven arrested in connection with plot against Sears

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

camp."

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

and Miami.

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

turbans."

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

in Miami.

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.

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Associated Press Writer Mark Sherman in Washington, D.C.,

contributed to this report.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)