Authorities: Kentucky Man Threatens President
C H A T T A N O O G A, Tenn., April 1 — A man who threatened President Bush with a 3,000-pound bomb was arrested Sunday after leading the Secret Service and five other law enforcement agencies on a chase down Interstate 75, authorities said.
Monty Branch, 29, of Frankfort, Ky., made the threat to a Bradley County dispatcher. He was driving a truck full of propane and was arrested at an interstate exit to the Chattanooga suburb of East Brainerd. No bombs were found on the truck.
"He said that he had a 3,000-pound bomb," said Beth Tucker Womack, spokeswoman for the state Department of Safety. "He said that he had a problem, and the president had a problem."
Branch told the dispatcher he was calling from a service station along I-75. He was no longer at the service station when authorities arrived, but authorities later spotted him on the interstate, Womack said.
The truck belonged to Amerigas, where Branch did deliveries. Branch had driven the truck 219 miles from Frankfort, authorities said.
A dispatcher in Bradley County referred calls to the Secret Service. Tim Gobble, supervisor of the Secret Service's Chattanooga office, declined comment, citing an ongoing investigation.
The chase lasted for 20 miles and reached speeds of up to 70 miles an hour before authorities cleared the interstate and punctured the truck's tires. Two separate searches failed to produce a bomb, authorities said.
Branch continued to threaten the president after his arrest, "indicating to a Chattanooga officer that he was going to blow the president up as part of expressing his freedom of religion, or statements to that effect," Chattanooga police spokesman Ed Buice said.
Charges were expected for the threat and traffic offenses, and a small amount of marijuana was found in the truck.
Amerigas, based in King of Prussia, Pa., also planned to seek theft charges against Branch for the truck, C.W. Joel, public information officer for the Chattanooga Police Department, told the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
—The Associated Press
Man Admits Supporting Terrorists
CHARLOTTE, N.C., April 1 — A man has pleaded guilty to funneling money, weapons and supplies to the Hezbollah terrorist group, prosecutors said today.
Said Mohamad Harb, pleaded guilty Feb. 25 to a charge of providing material support to a known terrorist organization, U.S. Attorney Robert Conrad said. His trial had been scheduled to begin in two weeks.
The case stems from an investigation into a group accused of smuggling cigarettes from North Carolina to other states for resale, then funneling the profits to the Lebanese militant group.
Harb, 31, a Lebanon-born naturalized U.S. citizen, was charged last year with providing Hezbollah with cash and supplies, including stun guns, blasting equipment, night vision goggles and mine detection equipment.
A lawyer for Harb didn't immediately return a call.
Two more men still face the charge of providing material support to a terrorist group, Conrad said. They are Mohamad Youssef Hammoud, originally identified by authorities as the group's ringleader, and Sheik Abbas Harake, identified as a military commander who lives outside Beirut.
Hammoud, who was already charged with racketeering and money laundering, is in custody. Harake is at large.
Three other men are charged with conspiracy in the case. Two are at large and the third was arrested in Canada but never extradited.