FBI: Moroccan Planned Drone Attack on School

Tuesday, 08 Apr 2014 06:37 PM

By Todd Beamon

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A Moroccan national who allegedly plotted to turn a radio-controlled model airplane into a drone-like flying bomb and crash it into a school and a federal building was being detained without bail on Tuesday after being arrested by FBI agents.

El Mehdi Semlali Fahti, 27, was taken into custody on Monday at his apartment in Bridgeport, Conn., where he had been living since January with someone he met while incarcerated in Virginia, the Connecticut Post reports.

Fahti should not have even have been in the country according to the Hartford Courant. In December 2009, he applied for refugee status after he was arrested in Fairfax, Va., on trespassing charges. He was then transferred to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement for deportation, the Courant reports.

FBI agents found wires and tools in the Bridgeport apartment, but it was not known whether any explosives were found. The targeted buildings were not identified in an affidavit, only that the school was outside Connecticut and the federal building within the state, the Post reports.

Fahti allegedly told an undercover agent in five recorded conversations that he studied the operation for months, the Post reports, and had made a chemical bomb while in high school in Morocco.

According to court documents, the recordings also say Fahti said he could obtain whatever else he needed for his plans in "southern California on the border" with Mexico.

He also told the agent he would pay for the plot with money from "secret accounts" consisting of cash from money laundering and profits from drug dealing, the Post reports.

Federal terrorism charges are pending against Fahti, the Post reports, as Assistant U.S. Attorney Krishna Patel is expected to present evidence to a grand jury while seeking an indictment.

Fahti currently is charged with making a false statement, falsely swearing under oath and falsifying declarations to a federal immigration judge. His student visa had expired when he flunked out of Virginia International University seven years ago, the Post reports.

He allegedly made the false statements in seeking political asylum while facing deportation to Morocco, according to FBI documents.

Fahti appeared in federal court in Bridgeport on Monday, and Magistrate Judge William Garfinkel granted prosecutors' request to detain him without bail.

Fahti's federal public defender, Paul Thomas, declined to comment to the Post.

According to the FBI, Fahti told the undercover agent that he went to the public library, researched issues in Morocco and learned about abuses allegedly committed by the Moroccan government on people involved with Jamaat Ansar El-Mehdi and the Western Sahara freedom movement.

The Western Sahara freedom movement, called Polisario, has been fighting for the area''s independence since 1976, according to the African Studies Center at the University of Pennsylvania.

Morocco is a constitutional monarchy that has been ruled by King Mohammed IV since his father, King Hassan II, died in 1999.

Jamaat Ansar El-Mehdi has been alleged to be a terrorist group by Moroccan authorities.

Fahti also falsely told the federal immigration court hearing that he was a victim of arrests, imprisonment and beatings by Moroccan police, authorities say.

"Everything he wrote in his refugee application coincided with the actual events" [in Morocco], the FBI affidavit said.

The FBI agent described one interview with Fahti this way: "The more he thinks about the case, he laughs because he cannot believe the judge believed him" in allowing him to seek refuge in the U.S. for political reasons.

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