Rockford man arrested in suspicion of alleged local terror plot

Derrick Shareef, 22, of Rockford, has been arrested for allegedly plotting a holiday terror strike at CherryVale Mall.

The alleged strike was to involve exploding hand grenades inside garbage cans at CherryVale Dec. 22.

MSNBC reported that Shareef is "a Muslim convert who talked about his desire to wage jihad against civilians."

“He fixed on a day of Dec. 22 on Friday…because it was the Friday before Christmas and thought that would be the highest concentration of shoppers that he could kill and injure,” MSNBC quoted Robert Grant, the agent in charge of the Chicago FBI office.

Shareef was arrested by Federal agents Wednesday, Dec. 6, when he met with an undercover agent at a store parking lot in Rockford to trade stereo speakers for four hand grenades and a hand gun. Shareef never obtained any grenades.

MSNBC reported: "Officials said Shareef had been under investigation since September, when he told an acquaintance that 'he wanted to commit acts of violent jihad against targets in the United States as well as commit other crimes.'

"The acquaintance immediately informed the FBI, officials said."

NBC's Pete Williams reported earlier that indications were the suspect was acting as a "lone wolf," and was not connected to any specific terror cell or group.

“While these are very serious charges, at no time was the public in any imminent peril,” U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald said in a news release.

According to MSNBC: "Other potential targets that Shareef allegedly discussed included government facilities such as courthouses and city hall, authorities said.

"Shareef and his acquaintance cased the CherryVale Mall on Nov. 30, discussing the layout and spots where they might set off several grenades simultaneously to create more pandemonium, according to an FBI affidavit."

A complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago charged Shareef with one count of attempting to damage or destroy a building by fire or explosion and one count of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. He was expected in federal court in Chicago at 1 p.m., Friday, Dec. 8.

The MSNBC report added: "A spokeswoman for CherryVale Mall said officials there are cooperating with the investigation but referred all other questions to the U.S. attorney’s office."

U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Illinois) released the following statement Dec. 8: "Federal authorities should be congratulated for apprehending a suspect today who intended to commit terror by bombing a mall in Rockford. I hope that he will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and I believe that this once again underscores the need to improve our country's intelligence-gathering capabilities and ensure that first responders have the resources they need to do their jobs and keep us safe."

The City of Rockford issued the following release at 1:09 p.m., Friday, Dec. 8:

"The Department of Justice has arrested a Rockford man on federal charges for planning a terrorist attack.

"Specific details of the arrest and the name of the suspect are the responsibility of the Department of Justice/U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald's office in Chicago.

"At no time were any individuals, buildings or structures in danger. City of Rockford Police Chief Chet Epperson has been briefed about the facts of the investigation and pending arraignment information.

"The Rockford Police Department is very diligent in its intelligence information about potential attacks to citizens, buildings and structures. The Department has a good working relationship with Department of Justice federal and local authorities in its defense against those who seek to commit crimes."

Staff Writer Stuart R. Wahlin contributed to this report.

From the Dec. 6-12, 2006, issue

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