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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Republican National Convention mentioned by Ohio bridge-bombing plot suspect, FBI says

The Republican National Convention played a bit role in a news story that broke in Cleveland, Ohio on Tuesday, and not in a good way.

The FBI this week arrested five men on charges they plotted to blow up a bridge near Cleveland, and one of the suspects, whom authorities describe as a self-proclaimed anarchist, brought up the Republican National Convention during a discussion of possible targets.

But that was the only mention of the RNC in a 21-page FBI affidavit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in northern Ohio. While the sworn statement details other steps the suspects took to buy explosives and make plans to use them against a four-lane bridge over the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, it does not indicate that anyone in the group talked about the Tampa convention more than once, nor does it indicate that anyone took any action regarding the RNC, which is scheduled to take place in Tampa from Aug. 27-30.

The FBI said three of the five men -- Douglas L. Wright, 26; Brandon L. Baxter, 20; and Anthony Hayne, 35 -- were arrested by the bureau's Joint Terrorism Task Force Monday evening on charges of conspiracy and attempted use of explosive materials to damage physical property affecting interstate commerce.

Wright, Baxter, and Hayne are self-proclaimed anarchists who formed into a small group, according to the FBI. Originally, officials said, they talked about using smoke grenades to create a distraction so they could somehow topple bank signs on top of downtown Cleveland high-rise buildings.

Later, the plan evolved to include the use of  C-4 explosives in the form of  two improvised explosive devices to be placed and remotely detonated at the bridge, authorities said. But an undercover FBI agent was the source of the “explosives,” which officials said were inert and never posed a hazard to the public.

On Feb. 20, Wright, Baxter and a confidential source working for the FBI went to lunch at a restaurant in Lakewood, Ohio, during which they talked about using stink bombs, explosives or paint ball guns against a hospital, bank or new casino in the Cleveland area. At that lunch, “Baxter went on to talk about the G-8 in Chicago” – a summit of major world leaders that has since been moved to Camp David – “and the Republican convention in Tampa,” FBI agent Ryan M. Taylor said in the sworn statement.

Over the course of several months, the men talked about other prospective targets, too, including trains and tunnels, the Veterans Memorial Bridge in Cleveland, an unidentified Ku Klux Klan headquarters in Ohio, a Federal Reserve Bank building, a courthouse complex in Cleveland and an Ohio-based “fusion center,” where federal, state and local law enforcement officials share resources and intelligence.

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 1, 2012 7:51pm]

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