ATLANTA — In a last-minute news conference, federal investigators announced that a joint terrorism task force, led by the FBI arrested Hasher Jallal Taheb, 21, of Cumming, after an investigation showed he wanted to attack several federal buildings in Washington, D.C.
"His alleged intent was to attack the White House and other targets of opportunity in the Washington, D.C., area," U.S. Attorney B.J. Pak said.
Channel 2 Action News learned late Wednesday night, Taheb planned to attack the White House on Thursday.
Police were tipped off about Taheb in March 2018. The community member who reported him noted that Taheb had become radicalized, changed his name and made plans to travel abroad.
We're working to learn more details about the local suspect's alleged terror plot, on Channel 2 Action News starting at 4 p.m.
According to the criminal complaint filed against Taheb in federal court, he wanted to travel overseas for "hijrai," which is a term used to describe going to the territory controlled by ISIS.
After attempting to sell his car to help fund his travels, he told a confidential source that "he wished to conduct an attack in the United States against targets such as the White House and the Statue of Liberty."
In December 2018, the complaint says Taheb met with an undercover agent and 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, the complaint says 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.
A week later, he met with the undercover agent again and "broadened his prospective targets in the Washington, D.C. area and indicated he wished to attack the Washington Monument, the White House, the Lincoln Memorial and a specific synagogue."
Taheb also outlined the weapons he wanted to purchase during that meeting, which included semi-automatic weapons, improvised explosive devices, an anti-tank rocket and hand grenades.
After several meetings and messaging back and forth with the confidential source and undercover agent, the complaint said Taheb had planned on attacking the White House on Jan. 17.
Taheb explained that the group would attack the White House by approaching from the back road, causing a distraction for police, and then proceeding into the White House. According to Taheb, the (anti-tank rocket) would be used to open a door and move in. Taheb said he planned to get as many people as possible and do the most damage. Taheb specifically noted the areas where the Secret Service and Homeland Security operated in the White House."
Agents arranged to meet with Taheb Wednesday and took him into custody.
NewsChopper 2 flew over Taheb's home on Wednesday night and showed images of multiple police cars surrounding the home.
"Taheb is charged as the result of a year-long investigation by FBI Atlanta's Joint Terrorism Task Force. We want to thank the Forsyth County Sheriff Office and Gwinnett County Police Department for assisting us with his arrest. The investigation is continuing, but at this stage, it is believed Taheb was acting on his own," said Chris Hacker, special agent in charge of FBI Atlanta.
Channel 2's Alyssa Hyman spoke to residents in the area who were shocked to come home to chaos in their neighborhood.
"I have a 4-year-old son, and he was looking out the window and he says, 'Mommy! A police!'" said Coreen Kanet. "I went outside, and then there was a lot of police cars. I thought it was a funeral procession. I had no idea what it was."
Neighbors gave us a picture of Taheb. They told us they never imagined he could have been capable of such a plot, but thanks to a community tip, investigators said Taheb never got close to carrying out his plans.
The FBI said there was never a threat to any location in Georgia and added that the Super Bowl was never a target, either.
Full statement from U.S. Attorney BJay Pak:
“Investigating and prosecuting individuals who seek to cause mass casualties is law enforcement’s top priority. Today, the Joint Terrorism Task Force partners, led by the FBI, arrested Hasher Taheb, 21, of Cumming, Georgia after a thorough investigation into his plans to attack federal buildings. As articulated in the affidavit supporting the complaint, his alleged intent was to attack the White House and other targets of opportunity in the Washington DC area. Mr. Taheb has been charged with violating Title 18USC 844(f)(1) -- attempt to damage by means of an explosive any building owned, possessed, or leased by the United States or any department or agency thereof, or any institution or organization receiving federal financial assistance. The JTTF initiated the case after receiving a tip from the community. Because the FBI, U.S. Secret Service, and numerous Federal, state and law enforcement partners are active participants in the JTTF, all potential threats have been neutralized and were under control from the inception of this case. Again, I want to clarify that there were no threats posed to any targets located in Northern District of Georgia, nor was the upcoming Super Bowl a target of his alleged activity,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak.
"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," said Chris Hacker, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. "Taheb is charged as the result of a year-long investigation by FBI Atlanta's Joint Terrorism Task Force. We want to thank the Forsyth County Sheriff Office and Gwinnett County Police Department for assisting us with his arrest. The investigation is continuing, but at this stage it is believed Taheb was acting on his own."