By Peter Whoriskey and Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, June 23, 2006
MIAMI, June 22 -- FBI agents conducted a number of raids and searches Thursday evening, including one in the impoverished Liberty City neighborhood, and seven people were arrested to face terrorism charges in what one law enforcement source called "a homegrown operation" that had among its targets the Sears Tower in Chicago and the FBI office here.
The plotting was in its early stages, law enforcement officials said, and as of 9:15 p.m. no weapons or explosives had been seized from the searched locations.
The suspects were described as supporters of militant Islam but not members of al-Qaeda. At least five are U.S. citizens, one is a legal resident, and the seventh is a foreigner, though not from the Middle East, officials said.
FBI Special Agent Richard J. Kolko in Washington said in a statement that the Miami operation was a "terrorist-related matter" but that "the individuals arrested posed no immediate threat to the U.S."
He and other officials declined to provide further details.
FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III said during an unrelated appearance Thursday night on CNN's "Larry King Live" that the arrests were part of "an ongoing operation." He and other law enforcement officials said more details would be released at news conferences Friday in Washington and Miami.
"Whenever we undertake an operation like this, we would not do it without the approval of a judge," Mueller said. "We've got search warrants and arrest warrants and the like. And so yes, it's a concern."
The raid in Liberty City was conducted at a concrete-block warehouse. Law enforcement officers cordoned off the neighborhood and then used a torch to open a metal door.
Seeking information, FBI agents showed photos of the suspects to residents of the area, and neighbors said some of the men appeared to be young -- in their teens or twenties.
South Florida has been home to a number of terrorists and terror suspects.
Several of the Sept. 11 hijackers lived in the region, including ringleader Mohamed Atta.
Jose Padilla, a former South Florida resident, is charged in Miami with being part of a support cell for Islamic extremists. His trial is set for September.
Eggen reported from Washington.