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Federal law enforcement officials have charged a Massachusetts man with conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists. Prosecutors allege the arrested man sought terror training overseas and discussed a plot to launch a shooting attack on a U.S. shopping mall.
Tarek Mehanna, 27, was arrested at his home in a suburb of Boston.
Acting U.S. Attorney Michael Loucks told a Boston news conference that between 2001 and 2008 Mehanna and his co-conspirators had allegedly discussed their desire to take part in Islamist Holy War and die on the battlefield.
"He and his co-conspirators discussed what to do and took steps in furtherance of and support for terrorism including trips overseas in an effort to join training camps and to fight and kill American soldiers," said Louck.
The travel included a stop in Yemen where Mehanna hoped to get terrorist training but was turned down.
Prosecutor Loucks also says Mehanna and his associates talked about the logistics of targeting innocent civilians at a shopping mall in 2003.
"Efforts to find and obtain automatic weapons to conduct the killing of Americans in shopping malls here in the United States, and the viewing and dissemination of jihad films showing the killing of American soldiers," added Loucks.
But Loucks said the idea for an attack on a shopping mall was dropped after Mehanna and his cohorts were unable to get the automatic weapons they wanted to use.
Prosecutors say there are two unnamed cooperating witnesses in the case who at times recorded Mehanna, including discussions about killing high-ranking U.S. government officials.
Loucks would not identify the officials but said they were never directly endangered by the alleged conspirators.
"It is alleged that Mehanna was involved in discussion about exploring other options such as shooting and killing one or two specific members of the Executive Branch of the United States government," continued Loucks.
Mehanna was previously indicted earlier this year and charged with making false statements in connection with a terrorism investigation.
If convicted of providing material support to terrorists, Mehanna would face up to 15 years in prison.
The Boston case comes only weeks after the arrest of Najibullah Zazi, an Afghan-born man and permanent U.S. resident accused of plotting a bomb attack on the United States.
Zazi pleaded not guilty to a charge of conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction and is being held in prison without bail.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called the alleged Zazi plot one of the most serious security threats in the U.S. since the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks.