Aug. 16, 2005 — -- A terrorist plot to attack military and Jewish sites in the Los Angeles area this coming Sept. 11 was devised inside a cell at the New Folsom State Prison, a maximum-security prison outside Sacramento, Calif.
Law enforcement officials told ABC News that Peter Martinez, a former Oakland street gang member, and his cellmate Kevin James organized the plot and recruited as many as 13 other inmates in a jihad against the United States. The two inmates have since been placed in special confinement, according to officials.
"Al Qaeda recruits in prisons. They really do," said Edward Caden, a retired prison administrator in California. "Prisons are a prime, prime target for terrorist recruiting. It is a ripe population."
The plot, which called for dozens of casualties as part of a holy war against the United States, was foiled after Levar Washington, a former inmate at the Folsom Prison, and his accomplice were arrested for a string of gas station robberies.
Washington had entered prison a convicted thief and left as a militant black Muslim who had sworn allegiance to a violent jihad, according to law enforcement authorities.
The FBI says Washington, after being released late last year, started to plan attacks on synagogues and a military recruiting center in Santa Monica, Calif.
A law enforcement report obtained by ABC News says the attacks were to take place on Sept. 11, and "the intent was to kill everyone at the target."
"He regarded Osama bin Laden very highly," claimed one man who wished to remain anonymous for fear of other cell members still at large. He said Washington tried to recruit him and others in Los Angeles to join the terror group.
"He really believed that the Muslim world is majorly oppressed right now," continued the attempted recruit, "and their only way out is to fight jihad by harming innocent people."
The terror plot was thwarted when Washington and his accomplice were apprehended. Although he had no previous criminal record, Washington's accomplice was in the midst of the 15-day waiting period to buy a high-powered rifle, according to police.
The imam of a Los Angeles mosque that Washington attended said he was surprised by the level of hatred for America that Washington had developed in prison.
"It strikes me as pretty strange that a person would come out full of anger and frustration and channel his direction of frustration at this particular angle," Imam Junaid Kharsany said.
ABC News' Chris Isham, David Scott, Beth Tribolet and Salim Jiwa contributed to this report.