Thursday, January 26, 2012

Yonathan Melaku pleads guilty to shooting Pentagon, other sites

Yonathan Melaku
(Reuters) - A former Marine Corps reservist pleaded guilty to reduced charges of shooting at the Pentagon and attempting to desecrate graves at Arlington National Cemetery in a plea deal on Thursday and agreed to a 25-year prison sentence.
Yonathan Melaku, 23, had been charged in connection with a total of five shootings at the Pentagon, the National Museum of the Marine Corps and Coast Guard, and Marine Corps recruiting stations in late 2010.
Melaku, of Alexandria, Va., had raised concerns among federal authorities at the time of his arrest in June over the possibility that a "lone wolf" could have been planning a more serious attack in the United States.
Four shooting charges and destruction of property chargers were dropped in the plea deal before U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee, who will formally sentence Melaku at a later date.
His defense lawyer requested a mental exam for Melaku before sentencing.
Dressed in green prison jumpsuit, he responded "Yes, sir" and "No, sir" to questions from the judge and when asked declared himself "Guilty."
No one was injured in the shootings, which took place late at night or early in the morning, and there was an estimated $111,000 in property damage.
Melaku shouted "Allahu akbar" (God is great) after the shootings and literature about the Taliban, al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden was found in his home, authorities said.
His motive was to "create fear and terror and that is what he did," Dana Boente, a federal prosecutor, told reporters after the hearing.
Melaku, who never served overseas, was arrested several months after the shootings near Arlington National Cemetery. In his backpack authorities found bullet casings and small bags of ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer that can be used homemade bombs. Prosecutors said he aimed to use the material to desecrate graves.
A search of his home turned up documents on his computer about bombmaking and explosives, according to a Federal Bureau of Investigation affidavit filed with charges in June.
Agents found a notebook that referred to the Taliban, al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden and to "The Path to Jihad."
They also found a video in his home that showed him firing a handgun repeatedly at what appeared to be the Marine Corps museum from a vehicle. After the shots, Melaku repeatedly shouted, "Allahu akbar", which means "God is great" in Arabic, the affidavit said.
(By Ian Simpson, Editing by Daniel Trotta)
Source: Reuters

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