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  1. Florida Politics

Prominent terror cases with ties to Florida

Rafiq Sabir
Published Jun. 19, 2016

Sept. 11, 2001: A South Florida man known as Adnan El Shukrijumah was wanted by the FBI as a suspected al-Qaida combatant due to his possible connection with the Sept. 11 hijackers. He also was under indictment for planning a suicide bomb attack in 2009 in the New York City subway system. Family members said El Shukrijumah went to Trinidad in 2001, but formerly studied computer engineering at Broward Community College. He sometimes prayed at Al-Iman mosque in Fort Lauderdale and Darul Uloom in Pembroke Pines. He was reported killed during a raid in northwest Pakistan on Dec. 6, 2014.

Sept. 11, 2001: Suicide hijackers Mohamed Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi trained at a flight school in Venice, and their accomplice Ziad Jarrah took lessons a block away from the school. Atta and al-Shehhi were responsible for the jets that flew into the World Trade Center, and Jarrah controlled the plane that crashed in rural Pennsylvania. Reports say that at least 14 out of the 19 terrorists responsible for Sept. 11 spent time in South Florida, with at least 12 of them in Palm Beach County.

Sept. 11, 2001: A Saudi family that left their Sarasota home weeks before Sept. 11 had ties to those associated with the terrorist attacks, according to FBI reports. Three of the family members were tied to the Venice flight school where two suicide hijackers from Sept. 11 were trained. The names of the three individuals were blanked out from official documents, but the home in Sarasota was that of Abdulaziz al-Hijji.

Feb. 20, 2003: Former University of South Florida professor Sami Al-Arian was indicted, alleged to be a leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and complicit in the murder of civilians. He was arrested in his Tampa home. Years later, Al-Arian ended up taking a plea deal on greatly reduced charges. He was deported to Turkey on Feb. 5, 2015.

Nov. 22, 2005: Former South Florida resident Jose Padilla was indicted on charges of conspiring to commit terrorist acts. He lived in Fort Lauderdale for an unspecified time where he prayed at Al-Iman mosque. He was transferred to Miami's federal detention facility after the indictment. Before the indictment, Padilla was held as an "enemy combatant" in U.S. Defense Department custody. He was previously arrested in 2002 for allegedly attempting to detonate a "dirty bomb" in the United States.

2007: Ahmed Mohamed and his friend Youssef Megahed, were arrested on terrorism-related charges in South Carolina after police found PVC pipes filled with model rocket propellants in their car trunk. Mohamed was also charged with giving "material support" for terrorism over a YouTube video that instructed how to convert a remote control toy into a bomb. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison after taking a plea deal in 2008. Megahed applied for citizenship two weeks before his arrest. Tampa immigration officials denied his request, but were directed to reconsider his petition March 19, 2012, after he was acquitted of the terrorism-related-charges. It was denied.

Nov. 28, 2007: Rafiq Sabir, a doctor who had lived west of Boca Raton, was sentenced to 25 years in prison after being convicted of conspiring to help and treat injured al-Qaida fighters.

May 2009: Five men were convicted in Miami on charges of conspiring to start a war against the United States by planning attacks in places including the Sears Tower and federal buildings in Florida. Narseal Batiste, Patrick Abraham, Stanley Grant Phanor, Burson Augustin and Rothschild Augustine were indicted on a multitude of charges including providing material support to foreign terrorist operatives like al-Qaida, attempting to wage war and planning to destroy with explosives.

July 18, 2013: Shelton Thomas Bell from Jacksonville was charged with conspiring to fight in an overseas holy war. The 19-year-old sought guidance and training from terrorists and was accused of using that training to organize a night "mission" that damaged religious statues near his home in East Arlington. Bell, also accused of making recruitment videos, is serving a 20-year prison sentence.

May 2014: Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha, a 22-year-old man from Florida, detonated a truck full of explosives during what was believed to be the first American suicide bombing in Syria. The last address listed for him was in Fort Pierce.

March 2015: Raees Alam Qazi and Sheheryar Alam Qazi, two brothers from Oakland Park, pleaded guilty to planning a terrorist attack in New York City and assaulting two U.S. marshals while they were in custody. In addition, Raees Alam Qazi pleaded guilty to providing "material support" to al-Qaida. The duo was arrested three years earlier in Broward County.

July 28, 2015: Harlem Suarez was charged with attempting to use a backpack bomb on a beach in Key West. Suarez had a Facebook page under the name "Almlak Benitez," in which he "liked" topics such as "Jihadist" and "Extraordinary Prayer for ISIS." FBI agents then arranged for a source to communicate with Suarez through texts, cellphone and in person. It was during those conversations that Suarez discussed planning a jihad against the United States.

Nov. 5, 2015: Pinellas Park resident Sami Osmakac was sentenced to 40 years in prison. He was convicted of attempting to use weapons of mass destruction, which included a car bomb, grenades and a suicide vest, along with possession of an unregistered AK-47. Police said Osmakac planned to stage terrorist attacks in Tampa.

April 29, 2016: James Gonzalo Medina of Hollywood was arrested on charges of conspiring to use "a weapon of mass destruction" at a synagogue close to Miami. He was arrested on his way to the Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center in South Florida.

June 12, 2016: Omar Mateen entered an Orlando nightclub and killed 49 people, leaving another 53 injured. Mateen was a resident of Port St. Lucie and was killed by law enforcement during the attack. He pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in a call to 911 during the shooting.

Compiled from Times wires by staff writer Allison Graves.

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