In what appears to be another case of an American resident plotting a terrorist attack on the U.S. from within, federal prosecutors today charged a 27-year-old college graduate from Boston with conspiring to kill politicians and wage violent jihad at shopping malls.
Tarek Mehanna was arrested and charged last year for lying about his connections with Daniel Maldonado, a Muslim convert who moved from the Houston area in 2005 to join an Al Qaeda training camp in Somalia.
Maldonado is currently serving 10 years in prison after being arrested in 2007 and pleading guilty to federal terrorism charges. Court papers say Maldonado wrote Mehanna to tell him, "I'm here fighting."
The new charges filed today against Mehanna allege he conspired with Maldonado and Ahmad Abousamra to provide material support to terrorists. Court documents also reveal Mehanna and his coconspirators had conversations about obtaining machine guns and devised plots to attack shopping malls.
Sources tell ABC News Mehanna and Abousamra are believed to have travelled to the Middle East on several occasions to link up with Islamic radicals and receive terrorist training at Al Qaeda camps there. Both men were apparently rejected by the groups and are now being targeted by federal authorities for the attempt.
According to the charges filed today, the men all met in 2002 and became influenced by terrorist propaganda on the Internet and in videos. Their plans, while mostly aspirational, did reference attacking shopping malls and attempts to murder high-ranking U.S. government officials.
"In 2003, Abousamra, Mehanna and [a confidential witness] discussed the feasibility of shooting and killing a specific member of the executive branch of the United States government," the affidavit reads.
Today's court filing also accuses Mehanna and the co-conspirators with planning to obtain automatic weapons and randomly shoot people in a shopping mall, and that the conversations went so far as to discuss the logistics of a mall attack, including coordination, weapons needed and the possibility of attacking emergency responders. It is alleged that the plan was ultimately abandoned because of their inability to obtain automatic weapons.
If convicted on the latest charge, Mehanna faces up to 15 years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine.
ABC News' Pierre Thomas contributed to this report.