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Florida Man, Alleged IS Supporter, Charged in Bomb Plot

  • VOA News

FILE - The Federal Bureau of Investigation headquarters in Washington.

FILE - The Federal Bureau of Investigation headquarters in Washington.

U.S. prosecutors on Tuesday charged a professed admirer of Islamic State with plotting to bury a bomb on a Florida beach and blow it up by remote control.

The Justice Department said Harlem Suarez, 23, of Key West, Florida, who is also known as Almlak Benitez, was charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. It said Suarez drew the attention of authorities by posting extremist rhetoric and messages promoting Islamic State on the Facebook social media site.

In April, Suarez allegedly posted, "Be a warrior, learn how to cut your enemies head and then burn down the body learn how to be the new future of the world Caliphate'' — a reference the Islamic State goal of building a regional fundamentalist entity.

The FBI said he later added a request "from any brother. How to make a bomb send me a video or something, what do I need to make it.''

Suarez made his first court appearance Tuesday in Miami and was being held without bail. It wasn't clear whether he had a lawyer.

The criminal complaint against Suarez that was unsealed said he told an FBI informant that he wanted to make a "timer bomb" full of nails, hide it in a backpack and bury it on a public beach in Key West. He allegedly planned to set off the bomb with a cellphone.

The complaint said Suarez gave an FBI informant some bomb supplies. He was then arrested Monday after taking possession of an inert explosive device provided by the informant.

"I can go to the beach at the nighttime, put the thing in the sand, cover it up, so the next day I just call and the thing is gonna, is gonna make, a real hard noise from nowhere,'' Suarez told an FBI source in a recorded call, according to the complaint.

Recruitment video

The FBI also said Suarez sought to make an Islamic State recruitment video using a script he wrote himself. It eventually was made under FBI surveillance at a motel in Homestead, Florida, according to the complaint, with Suarez dressed in a black tactical vest, black shirt, mask and yellow-and-black scarf.

"American soil is the past, we will destroy America and divide it in two, we will rais[e] our black flag on top of your white house and any president on duty [cut head],'' Suarez says in a script for the video.

Suarez was being monitored for months by U.S. authorities and never made an actual explosive, and there was no indication in the FBI complaint that he had contact with any Islamic State militants overseas. Still, Miami's FBI special agent in charge, George Piro, said the alleged threats had to be taken seriously.

"There is no room for failure when it comes to investigating the potential use of a weapon of mass destruction,'' Piro said.

"The FBI and our local state and federal partners work around the clock to prevent such catastrophic weapons from being used against our citizens," he added. "Even so, we ask the public to be vigilant and report suspicious activity to law enforcement."

Meanwhile, in the neighboring state of Georgia, a federal judge sentenced Leon Nathan Davis to 15 years in prison for attempting to fly overseas and fight with Islamic State.

Davis pleaded guilty in May, several months after the FBI arrested him at the Atlanta airport with a ticket to Turkey in his hand.

Some information for this report came from AP.

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