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Last Updated: Friday, 23 June 2006, 23:20 GMT 00:20 UK
Seven charged over 'Chicago plot'
FBI officer on the street in Liberty City, Miami
The streets of Liberty City were busy with FBI agents and vehicles
The US authorities have charged seven suspected militants in connection with an alleged plot to destroy the country's tallest building.

They were planning to blow up Chicago's Sears Tower, the FBI says. It adds that the seven had sworn allegiance to al-Qaeda, but had no contacts with it.

They were arrested at a warehouse in Miami, during an undercover operation.

The group - infiltrated by an agent posing as an al-Qaeda member - includes two foreigners and five US citizens.

US Attorney-General Alberto Gonzales said the group of "home-grown terrorists" were inspired by "a violent jihadist message".

"They were persons who for whatever reason came to view their home country as the enemy," he told reporters.

'Wannabes'

According to a federal indictment, the men were conspiring to "levy war against the United States".

They have been charged with conspiring to blow up both the Sears Tower and the FBI building in North Miami Beach.

The indictment names Narseal Batiste, who allegedly asked an undercover agent he thought was from al-Qaeda for help to build an "army to wage jihad", the indictment said.

He is said to have told the agent he and his "soldiers" wanted al-Qaeda training and planning for a "full ground war" against the US in order to "kill all the devils we can".

SEARS TOWER
Sears Tower
110 floors, 442m (1,450ft) high
Construction began in 1970, completed in 1973
Tallest building in the US
Third tallest in world, after Taiwan's Taipei 101 and Kuala Lumpur's Petronas Tower
Commissioned by Sears, Roebuck and Company, the world's largest retailer at the time
Designed by architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

His mission would "be just as good or greater than 9/11", Mr Batiste said, according to the indictment.

No weapons were found in the Miami warehouse, and the seven had not posed any immediate danger, the FBI said.

Deputy FBI leader John Pistole said the plot had been "aspirational" rather than "operational".

Mr Gonzales said the lack of direct link to al-Qaeda did not make the group any less dangerous.

"Today terrorist threats come from a smaller, more loosely defined cells not affiliated to al-Qaeda," he said.

"Left unchecked these home-grown terrorists may prove as dangerous as groups like al-Qaeda."

Neighbours in Miami's poor Liberty City area said the men apparently slept in the warehouse where they were arrested.

"They would come out late at night and exercise. It seemed like a military boot camp they were working on there. They would come out and stand guard," said Tashawn Rose.

However a man claiming links to the arrested men told the news channel CNN that they were a peaceful religious group.


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See the scene of the arrests in Miami



SEE ALSO
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30 Jun 05 |  Americas
US court rejects Padilla appeal
03 Apr 06 |  Americas
Bush pledge over US intelligence
31 Mar 05 |  Americas
US mosques checked for radiation
24 Dec 05 |  Americas

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