DALLAS - A 19-year-old Jordanian was arrested Thursday on charges he intended to bomb a downtown Dallas skyscraper, federal officials said.
Hosam Maher Husein Smadi was arrested after placing what he believed to be a car bomb in the garage of the 60-story Fountain Place office tower Thursday, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney's office in Dallas. The decoy device was given to him by an undercover FBI agent, the statement said.
Smadi is charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. Federal officials say the case has no connection with the major terrorism investigation under way in Colorado and New York or the Thursday arrest of a man facing the same charge in Springfield, Illinois.
Court documents do not list an attorney for Smadi. He was in federal custody in Dallas and was set to make an initial court appearance today, said Special Agent Mark White, a Dallas FBI spokesman. White declined to comment on the specifics of the case.
The FBI had kept tabs on Smadi, who lived in the small north Texas town of Italy, since an undercover agent discovered him in an online group of extremists, according to an FBI affidavit that did not specify a date.
"He stood out based on his vehement intention to actually conduct terror attacks in the United States," FBI supervisory special agent Thomas Petrowski wrote in the affidavit.
Three undercover agents who are native Arabic speakers communicated and met with Smadi over several months, posing as members of an al-Qaida sleeper cell, according to the court documents. They allege he discussed targeting military recruiting centers, credit card companies, the airport or an armory before settling on a building containing a bank branch.
Smadi also allegedly said he wanted to attack on Sept. 11 but chose to wait until after the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
Agents provided Smadi with what he believed was a car bomb but was actually an inert device, according to Petrowski's affidavit.
Smadi drove to Dallas on Thursday, met with one of the undercover agents, then parked his vehicle in a garage beneath the targeted office tower and set the device's timer, Petrowski's affidavit said. Smadi met up again with the agent, who drove several blocks away and Smadi dialed a cell phone in an attempt to detonate the car bomb, according to the affidavit.
Friends who knew Smadi as "Sam" told The Dallas Morning News that he had lived alone in the Ellis County town of Italy for about a year and worked at a Texas Best Smokehouse. They described him as easygoing and generous.
"This comes as a shock to us, he was just an awesome person," said friend Tabatha Rogers. "He was good to us."
The Morning News also reported that the Ellis County Sheriff's department had arrested Smadi on Sept. 11 for having no drivers license or insurance. He paid a $550 fine and was released the same day.