Friday, June 24, 2011

Radicalized U.S Marine Reservist Charged In Shooting Of Military Buildings Near Nation's Capital

The 22-year-old Marine reservist charged Thursday with shooting at military buildings near the nation's capital radicalized himself through the Internet, but there is no indication he was planning to harm individuals, sources told Fox News.

After laying low for months, Yonathan Melaku of Alexandria, Va., was arrested early Friday morning at Arlington National Cemetery, which was closed at the time.

He allegedly possessed a backpack containing bomb-making materials, spray paint, and a notebook with references to Usama bin Laden, Al Qaeda and other "jihadist" materials, according to Neil MacBride, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. The incident shut down major highways around the Pentagon for much of Friday.

Melaku was charged Thursday with two counts of willfully injuring property of the United States, and two counts of knowingly carrying and discharging a firearm. MacBride wouldn't say whether prosecutors plan to file terrorism-related charges against Melaku, but he said such charges "are possible."

Melaku is currently in state custody on unrelated charges in Virginia, though he is expected to be transferred to federal custody.

Melaku allegedly frequented sites such as YouTube, where he watched videos outlining atrocities in the Muslim world and accusing the United States of victimizing Muslims, according to the sources familiar with the case who spoke on condition of anonymity. After arresting Melaku Friday, authorities specifically asked him whether he was inspired by the radical, U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who has been linked to several recent attacks on the United States, but Melaku denied any such inspiration.

Authorities believe Melaku wanted to launch "symbolic" strikes, and there is no evidence he intended to harm individuals, according to a source familiar with the investigation. In addition, there is no evidence his alleged actions Friday had anything to do with the death of bin Laden, which has put U.S. officials on alert for possible retaliatory attacks.

At a press conference Thursday in Washington, the head of the FBI's Washington Field Office, James McJunkin, said "the evidence suggests" Melaku's intentions at Arlington National Cemetery were "at least vandalism, but we don't know exactly what his intent is, and we can't really speculate on that."

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