The alleged ringleader of a group of South Florida men accused of plotting to blow up Chicago's Sears Tower wanted the blast to divert law enforcement so he could free inmates from a prison to join his terrorist army, federal prosecutors said Friday.
The lead attorney in the government's terrorism case against the seven men provided fresh details about the group's alleged plot to bomb buildings in Miami and Chicago - and how the plan disintegrated as members fought among themselves.
The picture that emerged during Friday's hearing in Miami federal court was of an ambitious but inept military-style organization whose members had illusions of grandeur and a taste for intrigue.
The men staged a top-secret meeting in the Florida Keys, swore loyalty oaths to al-Qaida, and even put their own leader on trial for treason and insubordination, said prosecutor Jacqueline Arango. According to the original indictment that led to the arrests on June 22, the group's ultimate goal was to launch an all-out ground war against the U.S. government by blowing up the Sears Tower.
In fact, the plan was even more far-fetched.
The group's alleged ringleader Narseal Batiste believed that bringing down the 110-story Sears Tower would divert law enforcement, allowing him to break into a Chicago-area prison and release the inmates who would then join his army, Arango said.
However, before obtaining any explosives or weapons, the group disbanded over rising suspicions about a government witness who had infiltrated the organization by posing as an al-Qaida member. Batiste had a final meeting with that informant May 24 and told him he still wanted to fulfill his plan, Arango said.
"I want to fight some jihad. That's all I live for," Arango quoted Batiste as saying during the meeting.
At that point, the government decided to end its investigation and arrest the men, Arango said.
The government's two-hour presentation, which included video recordings, came during a hearing on whether six of the seven men should remain in custody before their trial. Arango argued the men should not be released on bond because they pose a danger to the community and might flee.