3 terrorists get decades in prison for plotting to massacre Muslims in US

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Left to right: Curtis Allen, Gavin Wright and Patrick Eugene Stein, arrested and charged in connection with plotting to bomb an apartment complex in western Kansas, are shown in these booking photos in Wichita, Kansas, provided October 15, 2016. (Courtesy of Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office/Handout via REUTERS)
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People stand outside a mosque located within an apartment complex, which federal authorities allege was to be targeted in a bomb plot by three Americans, is seen in Garden City, Kansas, US, on October 14, 2016. (REUTERS/Adam Shrimplin/File Photo)
Updated 26 January 2019

3 terrorists get decades in prison for plotting to massacre Muslims in US

  • Prosecutors presented video testimony from some Somali immigrants who were the targets of the bombing
  • The plot was foiled after another militia member alerted authorities

WICHITA, US: Three militia members convicted of taking part in a foiled plot to massacre Muslims in southwest Kansas were sentenced Friday to decades in prison during an emotional court hearing in which one of the targeted victims pleaded: “Please don’t hate us.”
US District Judge Eric Melgren sentenced Patrick Stein, the alleged ringleader, to 30 years in prison and Curtis Allen, who drafted a manifesto for the group, to 25 years. Gavin Wright, who authorities said helped make and test explosives at his mobile home business, received 26 years. The plot was foiled after another militia member alerted authorities.
Melgren dismissed defense attorneys’ request that he take into the account the divisive political atmosphere in which the men formed their plot to blow up a mosque and apartments housing Somali immigrants in the meatpacking town Garden City, about 220 miles (355 kilometers) west of Wichita, on the day after the 2016 election.
“We have extremely divisive elections because our system is to resolve those through elections and not violence,” Melgren said.
Stein’s attorneys have argued that he believed then-President Barack Obama would declare martial law and not recognize the validity of the election if Donald Trump won, forcing militias to step in. Stein’s attorneys noted that during the 2016 campaign, all three men read and shared Russian propaganda on their Facebook feed designed to sow discord in the US political system.
Attorney Jim Pratt told the judge that for years Stein had immersed himself in right-wing media and commentators, who normalized hate. But Melgren was openly skeptical, telling Pratt: “Millions of people listen to this stuff — whether it comes from the left or the right.”
Prosecutors presented video testimony from some Somali immigrants who were the targets of the bombing. In one clip, Ifrah Farah pleaded: “Please don’t kill us. Please don’t hate us. We can’t hurt you.”
Allen, 51, choked up as he addressed the judge, prompting his attorney to step in and finish reading a prepared statement in which Allen offered “my sincere apologies” to anyone who was frightened and asked for their forgiveness. But Stein, 49, apologized only to his family and friends, and the judge noted when sentencing him that, unlike Allen, he had shown no remorse.
Wright, 53, apologized to the court, saying the plot is “not who I am.” He also apologized to the immigrants who lived at the apartment complex. The judge later said Wright’s courtroom statement showed he was still in denial about what he did, adding and he did not buy that there was any remorse on Wright’s part.
Melgren sentenced Stein to 30 years for conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and 10 years for conspiracy against civil rights. He sentenced Allen and Wright to 25 years for conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and 10 years for conspiracy against civil rights. Those sentences will run concurrently. Wright also got an additional year to be served consecutively for lying to law enforcement, bringing his total sentence to 26 years.
The judge told all three men that the planned attack was worse than the Oklahoma City bombing because the Garden City plot was motivated by hatreds of race, religion and national origin.
The Kansas plot was thwarted when militia member Dan Day tipped off authorities to escalating threats of violence. He testified at the men’s trial last year that Stein started recruiting others to kill Muslim immigrants after the June 2016 mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, by a gunman who had pledged allegiance to the Daesh group.
Recordings that prosecutors played for jurors last April portrayed a damning picture of a splinter group of the militia Kansas Security Force that came to be known as “the Crusaders.”
Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker in a news release called the sentences “a significant victory against hate crimes and domestic terrorism.”
“These defendants planned to ruthlessly bomb an apartment complex and kill innocent people, simply because of who they are and how they worship,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said.
The sentencing hearings for the men came a day after two members of an Illinois militia known as the White Rabbits pleaded guilty in the 2017 bombing of a Minnesota mosque , admitting they hoped the attack would scare Muslims into leaving the US No one was injured in that attack.


US accuses Hezbollah of storing explosive chemical in Europe

Updated 18 September 2020

US accuses Hezbollah of storing explosive chemical in Europe

  • Ammonium nitrate is a chemical compound commonly used as a fertilizer, but it can be used to make explosives
  • It can also be dangerous in storage, as demonstrated by the huge explosion last month in Beirut

WASHINGTON: Militant group Hezbollah has stored chemicals that can be used to make explosives in several European countries, a senior State Department official said Thursday as he appealed to countries in Europe and elsewhere to impose bans on the organization.
Hezbollah operatives have moved ammonium nitrate from Belgium to France, Greece, Italy, Spain and Switzerland in recent years and are suspected to still be storing the material throughout Europe, said Nathan Sales, the State Department coordinator for counter-terrorism.
Ammonium nitrate is a chemical compound commonly used as a fertilizer, but it can be used to make explosives. It can also be dangerous in storage, as demonstrated by the huge explosion last month in the Lebanese capital of Beirut.
Sales, without offering evidence, said the U.S. believes that Iran-backed Hezbollah has since 2012 transported ammonium nitrate around Europe in first aid kits with cold packs that contain the compound. The United States believes these supplies are still in place throughout Europe, possibly in Greece, Italy and Spain.
“Why would Hezbollah stockpile ammonium nitrate on European soil?" he said. “The answer is clear: Hezbollah put these weapons in place so it could conduct major terrorist attacks whenever it or its masters in Tehran deemed necessary."
Sales made the remarks in an online forum hosted by the American Jewish Committee, which has called upon more countries to ban Hezbollah and its operations.
The US has designated Hezbollah as a foreign terrorist organization since 1997, but some countries distinguish between the organization's military wing and the political wing.
The EU lists Iran-backed Hezbollah’s military wing as a banned terrorist group, but not its political wing, which has been part of Lebanese governments in recent years. Some individual countries, including Germany and the UK, have outlawed the group in its entirety. Sales called on more countries to do the same.
Hezbollah is a “unitary organization that cannot be subdivided into a military and so-called political wing," he said. Without a full ban, the group can still raise money and recruit operatives. “Hezbollah is one organization," he said. "It is a terrorist organization.”