Man charged with plot­ting of a bomb­ing at Kansas mil­i­tary base

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY NI­CHOLAS CLAY­TON AND JOHN HANNA

A man charged with plot­ting a sui­cide bomb attack on a U.S. mil­i­tary base to help the Is­lamic State group was men­tally ill and was act­ing strangely only days be­fore his ar­rest, ac­cord­ing to a Mus­lim cleric who said he was coun­sel­ing him at the re­quest of the FBI.

John T. Booker Jr., of Topeka, is ac­cused of plan­ning a sui­cide attack at Fort Ri­ley, about 112 kilo­me­ters west of Topeka. Pros­e­cu­tors al­lege he told a Fed­eral Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion in­for­mant he wanted to kill Amer­i­cans and en­gage in vi­o­lent ji­had on be­half of the ter­ror­ist group, and said he be­lieved such an attack was jus­ti­fied be­cause the Qu­ran “says to kill your enemies wher­ever they are,” ac­cord­ing to a crim­i­nal com­plaint.

Au­thor­i­ties ar­rested Booker on Fri­day as he was try­ing to arm what he thought was a 1,000 pound ( 455 kilo­gram) bomb out­side the Army post, ac­cord­ing to pros­e­cu­tors. The crim­i­nal com­plaint filed in fed­eral court in Topeka charges him with three crimes, in­clud­ing at­tempt­ing to use a weapon of mass de­struc­tion.

The top fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor for Kansas also charged an­other Topeka man, Alexander E. Blair, 28, with fail­ing to re­port Booker’s plans to au­thor­i­ties. The com­plaint al­leges that Blair and Booker shared some “ex­trem­ist views” and that Blair loaned Booker money to rent space to build and store a bomb.

Imam Omar Hazim of the Is­lamic Cen­ter of Topeka told The As­so­ci­ated Press that two FBI agents brought Booker to him early in 2014 for coun­sel­ing, hop­ing to turn the young man away from rad­i­cal be­liefs. Hazim said the agents told him that Booker suf­fered from bipo­lar dis­or­der, char­ac­ter­ized by un­usual mood swings that can af­fect func­tion­ing.

Hazim said he ex­pressed con­cerns to the FBI about al­low­ing him to move freely in the com­mu­nity at their first en­counter.

Hazim said he later heard that two oth­ers were in­volved in a bomb­ing plot with Booker. He said the FBI told him they were un­der­cover FBI agents and that the sting was ar­ranged to get Booker, “off the streets.”

“I think the two FBI agents set him up, be­cause they felt at that point some­one else might have done the same thing and put a real bomb in his hands,” Hazim said.

He said he has come to the con­clu­sion that the sting was the right thing to do. He said Booker ad­mit­ted to him on Tues­day that he had stopped tak­ing his med­i­ca­tion be­cause he didn’t like the way it made him feel and it was ex­pen­sive.

A spokesman for the U.S. at­tor­ney’s of­fice in Kansas de­clined to com­ment on Hazim’s com­ments.

The soft-spo­ken Booker made his first court ap­pear­ance Fri­day in U.S. Dis­trict Court in Topeka, an­swer­ing ba­sic ques­tions and cor­rect­ing the spell­ing of his alias, Muham­mad Ab­dul­lah Has­san. Booker was or­dered to re­main jailed. A grand jury is ex­pected to con­sider the case next week.

Booker’s public de­fender, Kirk Red­mond, de­clined com­ment fol­low­ing the hear­ing.

Booker was re­cruited to join the Army in Fe­bru­ary 2014, but came to the at­ten­tion of fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tors af­ter post­ing a Face­book mes­sage on March 19, 2014, that read: “Get­ting ready to be killed in ji­had is a HUGE adren­a­line rush! I am so ner­vous. NOT be­cause I’m scared to die but I am ea­ger to meet my lord,” ac­cord­ing to the crim­i­nal com­plaint against him. His mil­i­tary en­list­ment was ter­mi­nated days later, ac­cord­ing to the Army.

His fa­ther, John T. Booker Sr., told the AP that his son moved out about two years ago af­ter grad­u­at­ing from high school. The el­der Booker, an Army vet­eran who served in Desert Storm, said he and his son had talked only about four times in the past year.

He said he is Methodist and his wife is Catholic, and that he knew noth­ing about the re­li­gious be­liefs of his son.

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