U.S. officials have arrested seven men in connection with what Bush administration officials say was a homegrown terrorist plot that targeted buildings in Miami and Chicago.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told a news conference that the seven men allegedly involved in the terrorism plot had wanted the help of al-Qaida to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago and government buildings in the Miami area.
"These individuals wished to wage a 'full ground war against the United States.' That quote is from the investigation of these individuals, who also allegedly stated the desire to 'kill all the devils we can.' They hoped for their attacks to be'just as good or greater than 9/11,'" he said.
Gonzales says government agents were tipped off that the alleged terrorists wanted help from al-Qaida. So, a government informer posing as an al-Qaida operative met with the group and ffered to help.
"Those steps included seeking out uniforms and weapons, conducting reconnaissance and taking bayat, the oath of allegiance to al-Qaida," he noted. "We know this because an individual they thought was a member of al-Qaida was present at their meetings. In actuality, he was working with the South Florida Joint Terrorism Task Force."
Gonzales described the alleged plot as an example of homegrown terrorism. The seven men were indicted by a federal grand jury on four separate conspiracy counts that accuse them of seeking to conspire with al-Qaida, to provide material support to terrorists and to wage war against the United States.
Five of the accused men are American citizens. One is a legal resident from Haiti and the seventh is an illegal immigrant from Haiti.
Attorney General Gonzales says the men were inspired by what he called a violent jihadist message.
A man in Miami who says he knows some of the suspects told the Cable News Network that they were not terrorists, but belonged to a religious group, called the Seas of David that studied the Christian Bible.
Attorney General Gonzales says the seven accused never went beyond the earliest planning stages for the alleged attacks in Chicago and Miami. He also says they had not yet acquired weapons or explosives, nor had they ever made contact with al-Qaida.
One of the alleged targets, the Sears Tower office building in Chicago, is the tallest building in the United States and the third tallest in the world.
The U.S. Attorney for South Florida, Alex Acosta, said authorities chose to act quickly, once they found out about the alleged plot.
"Our mission, all of our missions here, is to identify and disrupt these cells before they acquire, if at all possible, the capability to implement their plan," he said.
Most of the accused made court appearances Friday, and will enter pleas at a later date. If convicted on the conspiracy counts, they could face lengthy prison terms.