Man sentenced to prison for plot to blow up U.S. military base

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A Topeka man was sentenced to 30 years in prison Monday for plotting and attempting to detonate a massive car bomb on the Fort Riley military base near Manhattan, Kansas, according to the Department of Justice.

John T. Booker Jr., 22, also known as Mohammed Abdullah Hassan, had pleaded guilty on February 3, 2016, to attempting to destroy government property by fire or explosion, as well as attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction.

Booker admitted in his guilty plea that he wanted to kill American soldiers and to help ISIS fight against the United States. His plot included building a car bomb with 1,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate and he planned to die in the process.

Booker first came under investigation by the FBI in March 2014 when he posted a message on his Facebook page saying he wanted to commit jihad. He said he had tried to join the U.S. Army because he wanted to commit an “insider attack” against American soldiers like the one that had occurred at Fort Hood, Texas. But when the Army didn’t accept him, he went for “Plan B,” seeking to set off terror at a military base in America’s heartland.

Undercover FBI informants began communicating with Booker in October 2014 and reported that he told them he dreamed of joining ISIS in the Middle East and wanted to capture and kill an American soldier.

The would-be jihadist actually filmed a video on March 10, 2015, that he wanted Americans to watch after his death. In the video, he said, “You sit in your homes and think this war is just over in Iraq. Today, we will bring the Islamic State straight to your doorstep.” He was, indeed, right on the “doorstep” when he filmed the video at Freedom Park, near Marshall Army Airfield at Fort Riley. In the video, he pledged allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi.

Booker also rented a storage unit in Topeka in March 2015 wherein he assembled his “bomb.” He was arrested on April 10, 2015, when he drove with the undercover FBI informants to Fort Riley, where he thought he could enter the base undetected at a little-used utility gate.

In court on Monday, Special Agent in Charge Darrin E. Jones of the FBI’s Kansas City Division, said, “The investigation leading to today’s sentencing illustrates the FBI’s commitment to disrupting acts of terrorism. If Mr. Booker had been successful in detonating a car bomb, the results could have been dozens, if not hundreds, of casualties. The FBI and our law enforcement partners remain committed to protecting the citizens of the United States and thwarting acts of terrorism.”

The Topeka Capital Journal reported that Booker was sentenced to 30 years for attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, and 20 years for attempting to destroy government property. The sentences are to run concurrently.

After his release, Booker will reportedly be under lifetime supervision, U.S. District Court Judge Carlos Murguia stated.

At the sentencing, Booker complained that he hadn’t received any help for his “mental health issues,” and said if he had been given money to “help him deal with his problems,” he wouldn’t be in this situation. That excuse didn’t gain him any relief, and FBI officials refuted his claim.

Supervisory special agent Aaron Tapp said the department did try to help Booker with his mental health problems, even driving him to appointments. The FBI also contacted Imam Omar Hazim at a local mosque in Topeka to talk to him, but his radical Islamic beliefs continued.

When Booker actually went to Fort Riley and agreed to detonate what he thought was a real bomb at the military base, he was arrested.

“We did everything we could,” Special Agent Jones said, “but we have an obligation to protect the American people.”

The following news broadcast dated April 11, 2015, was on the day after Booker’s arrest:

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