February 3, 2016 / 2:35 PM / 4 years ago

Kansas man pleads guilty to plotting suicide car bombing

KANSAS CITY, Kansas (Reuters) - A 21-year-old Kansas man pleaded guilty on Wednesday to plotting a suicide car bombing at a U.S. Army base in support of Islamic State.

John T. Booker, Jr. of Topeka pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Topeka to one count of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and one count of attempted destruction of government property by fire or explosion, prosecutors said.

“If this defendant had succeeded, American soldiers would have died,” said U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom of Kansas said in a statement. “The investigators and the attorneys who worked on this case were our line of defense against terrorism.”

The two sides have agreed Booker, who faced a possible life sentence, will be sentenced to 30 years in federal prison, prosecutors said.

Booker was arrested in April and admitted he intended to kill personnel at Fort Riley military base in Manhattan, Kansas in support of Islamic State, prosecutors said.

He planned to build a bomb containing 1,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate and detonate it himself, dying in the process, they said.

Booker, who is also known as Muhammad Abdullah Hassan, had arrived at Fort Riley with Federal Bureau of Investigation informants to detonate the bomb without realizing it was inert, according to prosecutors.

The FBI began tracking Booker in March 2014 after he posted Facebook messages in which he said: “Getting ready to be killed in jihad is a HUGE adrenaline rush!! I am so nervous. NOT because I’m scared to die but I am eager to meet my lord,” according to a criminal complaint.

Booker told FBI agents after the Facebook postings that he had sought to enlist in the Army with the intent of committing an insider attack on U.S. soldiers like the 2009 shootings by Major Nidal Hassan at Fort Hood, Texas, according to the complaint. Booker was denied entry into the Army and then came in contact unknowingly with an FBI confidential source in October 2014, the complaint said.

Reporting by Kevin Murphy in Kansas City. Editing by Bill Trott and Cynthia Osterman

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