The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Milwaukee man arrested after allegedly plotting mass shooting to ‘terrify the world’

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Samy Mohamed Hamzeh, 23, had a plan, the Justice Department said: Kill more than two dozen people at a Masonic temple in Milwaukee and become an international extremist superstar.

“I am telling you, if this hit is executed, it will be known all over the world,” Hamzeh told two unidentified FBI sources in Arabic. “All over the world, all the mujahedeen will be talking and they will be proud of us … We are marching at the front of the war.”

The larger the number of victims, the better, Hamzeh said, according to the Justice Department.

“Thirty is excellent,” he said, according to the department. “If I got out, after killing 30 people, I will be happy 100 percent … 100 percent happy, because these 30 will terrify the world.”

Now, Hamzeh’s alleged plans have been derailed. He was arrested Tuesday and charged with possessing machine guns and a silencer, as the department announced.

“Samy Mohamed Hamzeh devised a detailed plan to commit a mass shooting intended to kill dozens of people,” acting U.S. attorney Gregory J. Haanstad said in a statement. “He also said that he wanted this mass shooting to be ‘known the world over’ and to ‘ignite’ broader clashes. It is difficult to calculate the injury and loss of life that was prevented by concerned citizens coming forward and by the tireless efforts of the FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force.”

Arrested after reportedly purchasing weapons from two undercover FBI agents, Hamzeh’s plans were detailed indeed, prosecutors said. Although he originally intended to attack Israeli soldiers and civilians in the West Bank, he settled on the Freemasons Lodge and discussed the need for high-powered weaponry at length.

“We want two machine guns,” Hamzeh, who was placed under surveillance in October, told the FBI’s sources. “You now have one, so we want two more, and we need three silencers, that’s it. Find out how much all together these will cost, and then we will march.”

According to the Justice Department, he had plotted out the whole attack, down to where he thought his conspirators would stand at the temple.

“One of us will stay at the door at the entrance and lock the door down, he will be at the main door down, two will get to the lift up, they will enter the room, and spray everyone in the room,” he allegedly said. “The one who is standing downstairs will spray anyone he finds. We will shoot them, kill them and get out.”

Hamzeh also allegedly had an escape plan.

“We will walk and walk, after a while, we will be covered as if it is cold, and we’ll take the covers off and dump them in a corner and keep on walking, as if nothing happened, as if everything is normal,” he said, according to prosecutors. “But one has to stand on the door, because if no one stood at the door, people will be going in and out, if people came in from outside and found out what is going on, everything is busted.”

Even though a Freemasons’ lodge was targeted in Istanbul in 2004, Hamzeh’s purported choice of target appeared to be novel. Freemasons, or Masons, have been in America since before the founding of the country. There were an estimated 1.5 million Masons in the country in 2009; Wisconsin now has 11,000, according to the Associated Press. George Washington was a Mason, and so were both Roosevelt presidents and John Wayne. Masonic symbols appear on our currency, and they influenced the design of Washington, D.C. Many conspiracies have been attributed to the group, and entire political parties have been devoted to reducing its influence in politics.

“The Freemasons were the first, the biggest, and the best-known gentlemen’s organization in the world,” Christopher Hodapp wrote in “Freemasons for Dummies.” “Up until about 1960, if you weren’t a Mason, you at least knew what one was. As secret societies go, they were a pretty badly hidden one.”

[Take a tour of Masonic Washington]

Hamzeh allegedly took the view that Masons, though now known primarily for their charity work, deserved to die. The Justice Department said he toured the lodge in Milwaukee with the two people he thought were his co-conspirators.

“They are all Masonic; they are playing with the world like a game, man, and we are like asses, we don’t know what is going on,” Hamzeh allegedly said. “These are the ones who are fighting, these are the ones that need to be killed.”

“Masons are a part of an organization that helped build this country,” Frank Struble, grand master of Free and Accepted Masons in Wisconsin, said. “I can understand from that standpoint where someone who is against this country would target us.”

A physical trainer who recently lost his job at a local gym, Hamzeh was fired for being “too intense,” according to the AP.