Nov. 28, 2007 -- A man who plotted a terror attack on an Illinois shopping mall last holiday season pleaded guilty to a related federal charge in a Chicago court Wednesday.
Derrick Shareef, 23, entered a guilty plea to one count of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction after authorities uncovered his plot to detonate grenades at a Rockford, Ill. shopping mall. Rockford is approximately 85 miles northwest of Chicago.
Federal agents arrested Shareef Dec. 6, 2006, after a sting operation in which he attempted to trade stereo speakers to an undercover agent for four grenades and a gun. Shareef has remained in federal custody since his arrest.
Additionally, authorities say Shareef was connected to Hassan Abujihaad, a former sailor with the U.S. Navy who is facing charges that he allegedly passed military secrets about naval movements through waters in the Middle East to al Qaeda-related Web sites during the spring of 2001, several months after terrorists attacked the USS Cole in Yemen.
A filing in Abujihaad's case, unsealed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Connecticut where the case is being handled, noted that "Hassan Abujihaad told Shareef that he was the individual responsible for the disclosure of information regarding the upcoming movements of a U.S. Naval battle group -- information which was subsequently found on a computer floppy disk in the possession of members of an alleged terrorist support cell in London."
That filing also said the pair had lived together in Phoenix, "where Abujihaad had settled after completing his military service."
But the documents claim the two also plotted attacks on domestic U.S. military installations.
From 2003 to 2004 and again in the fall of 2006, the documents allege, Abujihaad and Shareef "participated in discussions about engaging in an attack on a domestic U.S. military recruiting station and engaging in a coordinated sniper attack on a domestic U.S. military base/barracks."
The case against Abujihaad's purports to show a complex nexus of international terrorism, as he allegedly sent the classified information on U.S. warship movements to U.K. terrorism suspect Babar Ahmad.
Ahmad was indicted in the United States in 2004 for allegedly providing material support to Chechen terrorist groups and the Taliban. He is currently battling his extradition to the United States in British courts.
From the late 1990s until 2004, Ahmad allegedly ran Web sites for Azzam Publications, which used to carry propaganda for al Qaeda. The Azzam Web site was a key recruitment and propaganda tool for al Qaeda and mujahedeen fighters.
As for Shareef, it remains unclear how much of a threat he really is, as authorities have maintained their belief that he was acting alone in the Rockford mall plot.
At the time of his arrest last year, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said of Shareef, "If he was being directed by overseas terrorists, he wouldn't have been trading two stereo speakers to buy grenades."
A federal judge has scheduled Shareef's sentencing for March 14, 2008. He faces a possible maximum sentence of life in prison.