FBI arrest Isil supporter who planned to attack White House with anti-tank rocket

Harriet Alexander
Donald Trump, speaking outside the White House. The FBI arrested a man on Wednesday who planned to attack the building on Thursday - REUTERS

An American supporter of the Islamic State has been arrested after he plotted to blow a hole in the White House with an anti-tank rocket and storm the building.

Hasher Jallal Taheb, 21, from the town of Cumming, Georgia, was arrested by the FBI on Wednesday, on the eve of his planned attack.

He had been watched since March, after police were tipped off that he had become radicalised, changed his name, and was attempting to sell his car to fund his travel to territory held by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil).

He was thwarted by not having a passport, and so changed plans, intending, he told an informant, " to conduct an attack in the United States against targets such as the White House and the Statue of Liberty."

In December Taheb met with an undercover agent and, according to court documents, he showed the agent "a hand-drawn diagram of the ground floor of the West Wing of the White House" and "described his plan for attacking the West Wing."

During that meeting Taheb discussed selling his car to buy weapons and explosives, and detailed the types of weapons he wanted to buy to use in the attack. 

He said he had never shot a gun but could learn easily – adding that he had watched some videos of how grenades explode.

A week later, court documents allege, he met with the undercover agent again and "broadened his prospective targets in the Washington, DC area and indicated he wished to attack the Washington Monument, the White House, the Lincoln Memorial and a specific synagogue."

He also explained which weapons he wanted to purchase: semi-automatic weapons, improvised explosive devices, an anti-tank rocket and hand grenades.

"His alleged intent was to attack the White House and other targets of opportunity in the Washington, DC, area," said B.J. Pak, US attorney for the northern district of Georgia.

After several meetings and messages with the confidential source and undercover agent, Taheb said he had decided that they should attack the White House on January 17.

Taheb explained that he intended to attack the White House by approaching from the back road, causing a distraction for police, and then proceeding towards the building.

Taheb told the undercover agent, the court documents claim, they needed a "base" where they could regroup and where he could record a video to motivate people.

"He stated he would be the narrator, clips of oppressed Muslims would be shown, and American and Israeli flags would be burned in the background," US authorities state.

Once inside the perimeter of the White House they would use the anti-tank rocket to break through the doors and move in.

Taheb "explained that jihad was an obligation, that he wanted to do as much damage as possible, and that he expected to be a 'martyr,' meaning he expected to die during the attack," according to authorities.

The undercover agent arranged to meet with Taheb on Wednesday, and then took him into custody.

"Taheb is charged as the result of a year-long investigation by FBI Atlanta's joint terrorism task force,” said Chris Hacker, special agent in charge of FBI Atlanta.

He said they believe Taheb was acting on his own.

"It is important to point out that this investigation and arrest were the direct result of a tip from the community, another example of how important it is to contact law enforcement if you see or hear something suspicious," he added.