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Prosecutors Reveal How Close ISIS-Inspired Man Came To Pulling Off D.C.-Area Terror Attack

By  James Barrett

On Monday, federal prosecutors filed a criminal complaint revealing details about a thwarted terror attack in the Washington, D.C. area — and just how close the would-be terrorist came to harming innocent people.

The suspect, a Muslim American citizen from Maryland who had become radicalized, wanted to emulate the horrific truck attack in Nice, France. He likely would have been able to carry out his murderous plot if he had not chosen to delay the attack.

In criminal charges submitted to the U.S. District Court of Maryland Monday, federal prosecutors say the suspect, a 28-year-old computer engineer from Maryland (name withheld per Daily Wire policy on mass killers), stole a U-Haul van for the purpose of using it to run over people in a densely populated area, similar to the radical Islamic attack at the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, France, which resulted in the death of 87 people, including the terrorist, and the injury of over 400 others.

“The defendant, inspired by the ISIS terrorist organization and prepared to die for his cause, stole a vehicle with the intent of ‘plowing it through a crowd full of people’ at the National Harbor,” the complaint reads.

Authorities say the suspect stole the van from an Alexandria, Virginia parking garage on March 26. The next day, he drove to Dulles International Airport, where he attempted for about two hours to find a way to get through security. Failing to do so, prosecutors say he drove to the popular tourist site at the National Harbor waterfront at around 10 a.m. After scoping out the location in an attempt to find the ideal place to carry out his plot, prosecutors say, he chose to wait a day because the crowds were sparse. The suspect broke into a boat at the harbor and hid there that night. That delay appears to be the reason authorities were able to thwart his plot. Police discovered the stolen U-Haul the next morning and identified the would-be terrorist via the I.D. he left in a BMW in the parking garage from which he had stolen the U-Haul.

“For two years, the defendant has harbored ‘hatred’ (in his words) for ‘disbelievers’ who do not practice the Muslim faith,” the federal complaint reads. “Seeking out and watching videos of foreign terrorists beheading civilians and fighting overseas, the defendant considered these gruesome actions brave and he wanted to emulate them. The defendant, though, did not have any weapons training. He was a computer engineer by trade, and knew nothing of explosives or firearms. But he knew how to drive, and he also knew of the terrorist truck attack in Nice, France. So the defendant decided to use what was readily at his disposal and conduct a vehicular attack on a crowd of innocents.”

“On Tuesday, March 26, 2019, the defendant walked off his job in Germantown, Maryland, in the middle of the day, determined to walk down the extremist path,” prosecutors allege. “Recognizing that his older four-door sedan would not cause the catastrophic damage that he desired, the defendant drove around the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area looking for a larger vehicle to steal. While seeking out a larger vehicle, the defendant—now fully committed to his mission—discarded his cell phone on an interstate highway, in an attempt to destroy evidence of the inspiration behind his attack. In Virginia, the defendant saw a U-Haul van of an appropriate size—larger, heavier, and more durable than his own car—and tracked it to its storage location. The defendant would have preferred a larger vehicle, but his impatience to act spurred him to opt for the good rather than wait for the perfect.”

“After stealing the U-Haul van, the defendant continued driving around the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area, assessing target locations he already had decided would attract substantial media coverage,” the complaint reads. “At approximately 5:00 a.m. on Wednesday, March 27, 2019, the defendant arrived at Dulles International Airport in Virginia. At that early hour, the airport lacked the large number of unloading pedestrians the defendant hoped to find. So, reconsidering his options, the defendant exited his U-Haul and entered the terminal, trying to find a way through security to harm ‘disbelievers; in a way designed for maximum publicity. The defendant first tried to access a restricted area by piggy-backing behind a cleared individual. The defendant next studied the security checkpoint, looking for any weak spot through which he could slip. Finally, the defendant attempted to obtain paperwork from a check-in kiosk. After more than two hours of failing to breach Dulles’s security perimeter, the defendant returned to the U-Haul and his original plan of driving through a crowd.”

Having failed to find a way to inflict enough harm at Dulles, the suspect then drove to the popular tourist site.

“The defendant then drove the U-Haul from Virginia to the National Harbor in Maryland, arriving around 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, March 27, 2019,” prosecutors say. “He wanted to create ‘panic and chaos,’ the ‘same as what happened in France.’ He had no escape plan, intending to die while killing others for his cause. In his own words, ‘I was just going to keep driving and driving and driving. I wasn’t going to stop.'”

“But so early in the morning on a weekday, the defendant did not find the sizable crowd upon which he desired to inflict his radical conduct,” it continues. “He parked the U-Haul and walked around until he found what he considered an ideal spot for an attack, in a popular part of National Harbor. He even calculated how he may have to come off the road and onto the sidewalk in order to hit people. With the crowds still too thin, however, the defendant needed a place to hide until the time was right, so he broke into a boat and hid there overnight. By the following morning, Thursday, March 28, 2019, police officers had discovered the location of the stolen U-Haul and were awaiting the return of whomever had stolen it. When the defendant leapt over the security fence from the boat dock, observant police officers arrested him.”

Read the full federal complaint here.

Though the suspect admitted his intentions to authorities, he is pleading not guilty.

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  1. Islamic State (ISIS)
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  7. Washington D.C.
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