The seven men arrested in connection with an alleged plot to blow up Chicago's Sears Tower and a federal building in Miami have been charged with conspiring to work with al-Qaida under the terrorist group's control.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Friday that the men were part of a group of "homegrown terrorists" who sought to work with al-Qaida but ended up consorting instead with a law enforcement informant.
"They were persons who for whatever reason came to view their home country as the enemy," Gonzales said at a news conference Friday at the Justice Department.
The seven men seized in a Miami warehouse were described by law enforcement officials as "radical muslims" and are charged in a federal indictment with conspiring with al-Qaida to commit acts of violence in the United States.
The seven individuals indicted by a federal grand jury were taken into custody Thursday when authorities swarmed the warehouse in the Liberty City area. The indictment also alleges plans to blow up a federal building in Miami in conjunction with the al-Qaida terrorist network.
The men were arrested when agents swarmed into a warehouse in Miami's Liberty City on Thursday, using a torch to take off a metal door.
People who live in the area said the group was running an operation similar to a military boot camp. One woman added that a member told her that "they had given their lives to Allah." Tashawn Rose said the men "seemed brainwashed" and she said they seemed to be running a "military camp boot camp."
Residents living near the warehouse said the men taken into custody described themselves as Muslims and had tried to recruit young people to join their group.
A federal law enforcement official told The Associated Press on Thursday that the alleged plotters were mainly Americans with no apparent ties to al-Qaida or other foreign terrorist organizations.
FBI agents investigating terrorism-related activities conducted a number of raids Thursday, federal officials said.
Though the FBI said the suspects were part of a terror plot, a man who said he's with the group told CNN that they are "peaceful" and study the Bible.
The man who called himself Brother Corey said the "Seas of David" do have "soldiers" in Chicago but it's not a terrorist organization.
FBI Director Robert Mueller, in an interview on CNN's "Larry King Live" refused to give many details about the investigation because "it's an ongoing operation." Mueller did say that he expects the "arrests and searches" to be wrapped up by Friday. More details about the probe are expected to be released then.
An FBI spokesman in Washington said there is no threat to the public in connection with the arrests.
Meanwhile, a reporter from affiliate station WMAQ in Chicago said that sources told him privately that city authorities knew about the Sears Tower plot on Wednesday. He also reported that sources said they have been informed that at least one of the suspects is from Chicago's southeast side.
The group had been infiltrated by the FBI, and thus it's not considered likely at all that an attack could have been carried out. However, the takedown of the group had to be moved up because of internal dissension, even possible violence, between members, WMAQ reported.
The Sears Tower may seem like a vulnerable target, but WMAQ reported that the building consists of nine column-free tubes, bound together to form a veritable fortress. Any attack would almost certainly have to be carried out from very close by, and following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the building was equipped with sophisticated detectors, capable of sniffing out chemicals such as the ammonium nitrate that was supposedly going to be used in the attack.
The main question is not whether this attack was likely to have succeeded, but exactly why it was planned and who the suspects are.
Nearby Residents Say Alleged Terrorists Seemed 'Brainwashed'
Some residents who live near a Miami warehouse raided by the FBI said the people arrested in an alleged terror plot acted odd.
The warehouse is the impoverished Liberty City area. Those who live nearby said FBI agents spent several hours in the neighborhood showing photos of the suspects and seeking information.
The men are said to be in their teens or 20s and had lived in the area for about a year.
Another man said the men sometimes had children with them. And a member of a nearby church said the men were very private and would come to the church often to ask for water.