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" wrote Soufan. Notable post-9/11 domestic terror stings include a plot to attack the Fort Dix Army

Time:2018-01-25 00:33Shoes websites Click:

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(CNN) -- Harlem Suarez grabbed a jalapeno pepper from his plate and took a big bite. The heavily tattooed Cuban-American crepe-maker was eating dinner with two new friends, Shariff and Mohammed, at a Denny's in Key West on a warm June night. Suarez wanted to impress them but they laughed instead, joking in Arabic that he seemed suicidal.

"You've got nothing to prove, man," said Mohammed, as Suarez's eyes welled up with tears from the heat of the pepper.

Suarez did have something to prove. He wanted to convince Mohammed and Shariff that he was a devout jihadist with a grand plan to rain hell on Key West.

Never mind that Suarez had tried and failed repeatedly to make contact with ISIS recruiters abroad, according to court documents. He spent most of his downtime lifting weights at the gym and partying at kitschy bars on Duval Street.

Before long he'd be one of only two Americans sentenced to life in prison by the US government for plotting terror attacks on behalf of ISIS.

The 23-year-old high school dropout had cultivated various outlaw personas in the past, trying to make himself look like a gangster or a drug lord, according to interviews with his parents and friends in the Miami Herald. He legally owned three guns: two Glock semiautomatic pistols and an AR-15 rifle. His rap sheet was a lengthy but underwhelming array of traffic infractions and parking violations.

In 2015, Suarez's online persona took a dark turn. He created a Facebook profile under the name Almlak Benitez and uploaded violent jihadist propaganda. His account was suspended at least four times because of graphic content, Suarez boasted, but he found ways to restore the page. Suarez had searched Google for ISIS T-shirts, flags and other merchandise. He sent about 200 Facebook friend requests seeking out "brothers" sympathetic to the cause. His nickname was Black Angel of Death.

"stad up with us my brother stand up with the black flag an The ak with 10 mag fight with us be a gangster with us kill our enemies and convert to Islam now in usa," he wrote on Facebook.

One Facebook user accepted Suarez's friend request because he saw they had a mutual friend. He was alarmed by the images and rhetoric on Suarez's page, so he notified the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office and gave screen grabs to the FBI. Within weeks of the initial tip from the Facebook friend, the FBI had a surveillance team following Suarez around the clock. At least 20 agents surveilled Suarez each day and sometimes 10 to 20 extra FBI employees were brought in to help keep tabs on him, according to court testimony. Mohammed, one of Suarez's dining companions at Denny's, was a paid FBI informant who specialized in terror cases. Shariff was an undercover agent posing as an ISIS supporter who knew a bomb-maker. They were both wired for sound and video as they joked about spicy peppers at the chain restaurant that calls itself "America's diner," famed for its big breakfasts and epic menu.

Mohammed said, "Eating those jalapenos is a struggle, it's a jihad."

As the three laughed, Shariff praised Suarez, "He said he didn't know any Arabic (but) he knows 'jihad.' "

Suarez didn't know Arabic. Nor did he recognize the name of ISIS' leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Mohammed taught him about al-Baghdadi and introduced him to the terror group's handbook, "How to Survive in the West." Mohammed told Suarez he had camera gear and said they should make a recruiting video. The two wrote the script at Burger King and filmed it in a roach-laden room at a Knights Inn in Florida City.

Mohammed alerted Suarez that ISIS had called on its followers to conduct attacks on July Fourth events, according to court testimony from the informant. That's when Suarez started talking about blowing up police cars on the holiday.

"If we can learn how to work it out, we can in one night, we can hit more than 10 targets," Suarez said at Denny's. "Another month, we can hit like another 10 in another city. Now if we have more of our brother helping us, they don't have to be that close. ... In the future, we can have everyone together for the fight."

Over the course of dinner and late into the night, the informant and the undercover agent tried to get details about Suarez's plan.

"Brother, you have some great ideas," said Shariff. "But you gotta have that focus and I'm wondering what specific target."

"Cops," said Suarez. "I will go for cops."

Suarez told Mohammed and Shariff that he was interested in conducting a domestic attack because traveling overseas was too costly.

"What city were you trying to go to?" asked Shariff.

"Iraq," Suarez replied.

"I'm saying...no, what city were you going to fly into?" Shariff asked.

"What do you mean?" Suarez replied.

"Just you're gonna fly directly to Iraq," Shariff said.

"But ... the ticket's like five thousand dollars," said Suarez.

"Jeez, where'd you look at? At what site?" asked Shariff.

"Internet," Suarez responded.

The meeting concluded with Shariff agreeing to talk to his associates about the purchase price for a grenade and a bomb.

But Suarez didn't try to blow up police cars on July Fourth. He went out drinking with his friends instead (trailed by the FBI's surveillance team).

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