A would-be Islamic terrorist tried to ignite a civil war this morning by bombing a bank in Oakland, California, saying that “he wanted the bank bombing to be blamed on anti-U.S. government militias”; luckily, the FBI thwarted his plan:
A man who was hoping to start a civil war in the United States with a terrorist attack in the Bay Area was arrested early Friday after trying to detonate what he thought was a car bomb at a Bank of America branch in Oakland, federal prosecutors said.
Matthew Aaron Llaneza, 28, of San Jose was taken into custody near the bank at 303 Hegenberger Road after pressing a cell-phone trigger device that was supposed to detonate the explosives inside an SUV and bring down the building, prosecutors said.
His supposed accomplice was an undercover FBI agent who had been meeting with him since Nov. 30, according to an FBI declaration filed in federal court. The declaration said the FBI had built the purported bomb, which posed no threat to the public.
The FBI agent quoted Llaneza as saying he supports the Taliban and wants to engage in violent jihad.
In the Nov. 30 meeting with an agent who posed as someone connected to the Taliban in Afghanistan, Llaneza said he wanted the bank bombing to be blamed on anti-U.S. government militias, triggering a government crackdown, a right-wing response and a civil war, the FBI declaration said….
Additional details, if any, will appear here as we learn of them.
Here’s a photo of the bank branch at 303 Hegenberger he tried to destroy:
Here is the official FBI press release about the incident, released a few minutes ago:
OAKLAND, CA—Federal agents arrested Matthew Aaron Llaneza, age 28, of San Jose, California, this morning after he allegedly attempted to detonate a vehicle-borne explosive device at a bank branch in Oakland.
Llaneza’s arrest was the culmination of an undercover operation during which he was closely monitored by the FBI’s South Bay Joint Terrorism Task Force. Unbeknownst to Llaneza, the explosive device that he allegedly attempted to use had been rendered inoperable by law enforcement and posed no threat to the public. Llaneza was charged this morning by criminal complaint with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction against property used in an activity that affects interstate or foreign commerce.
According to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, on November 30, 2012, Llaneza met with a man who led him to believe he was connected with the Taliban and the mujahidin in Afghanistan. In reality, this man was an undercover FBI agent. At this initial meeting, Llaneza proposed conducting a car-bomb attack against a bank in the San Francisco Bay Area. He proposed structuring the attack to make it appear that the responsible party was an umbrella organization for a loose collection of anti-government militias and their sympathizers. Llaneza’s stated goal was to trigger a governmental crackdown, which he expected would trigger a right-wing counter-response against the government followed by, he hoped, civil war.
The complaint further alleges that Llaneza subsequently selected the Bank of America branch at 303 Hegenberger Road in Oakland as the target for the attack. Llaneza ultimately specified a spot next to a support column of the bank building as a good location for the bomb, expressed a desire for the bomb to bring down the entire bank building, and offered to drive the car bomb to the bank at the time of the attack.
According to the complaint, in January and February 2013, Llaneza and the undercover agent constructed the purported explosive device inside a sport utility vehicle (SUV) parked inside a storage facility in Hayward, California. As part of the process of assembling the device, Llaneza purchased two cell phones to be used in creating and operating the trigger device for the car bomb. One of these cell phones was incorporated into the trigger device itself. The other was reserved for use on the night of the attack.
The criminal complaint alleges that on the evening of February 7, 2013, Llaneza drove the SUV containing the purported explosive device to the target bank branch in Oakland. He parked the SUV beneath an overhang of the bank building where he armed the trigger device. He then proceeded on foot to a nearby location a safe distance from the bank building, where he met the undercover agent. Once there, Llaneza attempted to detonate the bomb by using the second cell phone he had purchased to place two calls to the trigger device attached to the car bomb. Federal agents then arrested him.
A few more sickening details at the Huffington Post:
[Llaneza] laughed and hugged the undercover agent after the agent showed him the SUV in a storage unit rented by the FBI. Llaneza also stated he wanted to travel to Afghanistan so he could train Taliban fighters, according to authorities.
Someone with the name Matthew Aaron Llaneza founded an Arizona LLC in 2008 called “Sand Fire Tactical.” The State of Arizona’s official “Arizona Corporation Commission” has scans of the LLC’s Articles of Organization, which you can also see here:
Same guy? Most likely. Does the name “Sand Fire Tactical” have anything to do with his earlier assault weapons conviction? (I.e. does the “tactical” refer to tactical weapons?) He describes his business type as “Internet sales, light manufacturing.” Was he making illegal weaponry and selling it over the Internet? Or was this business completely innocuous?
The Phoenix Fox affiliate is searching for people who might have known Matthew Llaneza, adding to the likelihood of an Arizona connection:
Good afternoon… Kristen Keogh here. We are trying to find someone who knows a man named Matthew Llaneza….KSAZ FOX 10 News myfoxphoenix
Sand Fire Tactical LLC had $58,000 in 2011 revenue (Estimated data).
Still not clear what “Sand Fire Tactical” sold, or if this revenue data is accurate or just a generic estimate.
Someone named Matthew Llaneza graduated from Red Mountain High School in 2003. Anyone who graduated from high school in 2003 would now be exactly 28 years old…the same age as the suspect. And where is Red Mountain High School? Mesa, Arizona, naturally, the same city where Sand Fire Tactical was founded.
Lots of new details in a San Jose Mercury News article published 4 minutes ago:
Court records stemming from a 2011 weapons conviction show that the one-time Marine likely suffered from mental illness that included bouts of paranoia, suicidal tendencies, hallucinations and voices in his head, and had a vast working knowledge of weaponry.
Those same records show that Llaneza’s father long had concerns about his son’s stability, keeping him at arm’s length after he returned to San Jose from several years living with grandparents in Arizona and having abruptly converted to Islam.
During the planning of the attack, Llaneza also allegedly said “he would dance with joy when the bomb exploded.” After the attack, Llaneza had intended to flee by boat to Pakistan and then travel to Afghanistan to train with Taliban fighters….
Records indicate that the U.S.-born Llaneza lived with his grandparents in Mesa, Ariz., until 2011, when he moved back to California to live with his father in North San Jose in an RV parked out front. During his time in Arizona, Llaneza described himself as an “armorist” who was proficient in weapons assembly, and records show that in February 2008 founded Sand Fire Tactical LLC, which he described in its articles of organization as an “internet sales, light manufacturing” firm located in Mesa.
The complaint describes Llaneza as a detail-oriented person intent on an eye-catching act of terrorism that he believed would foment civil unrest. Court records in Santa Clara County seemingly set the foundation for those thoughts after he was convicted in 2011 for illegally having an AK-47 assault rifle and accompanying high-capacity magazines he purportedly purchased and registered in Arizona.
That discovery came out of an emergency call April 17 that year to the home of Steve Llaneza, who had recently allowed his son to live in an RV outside. Appearing under the influence of alcohol and marijuana — with a history of hard-drug use — the son threatened to kill himself and was hospitalized under a mental health hold.
Ensuing investigations by San Jose police led to them finding the assault rifle and magazines, which prompted officers to take Matthew Llaneza out of the hospital and into custody. He was convicted of the weapons offenses, and given a suspended sentence after having served six months in County Jail.
During the investigation and a corresponding preliminary hearing, Llaneza was described as being in and out of mental-health treatment, instead self-medicating with medically-obtained marijuana. He told interrogating officers about suffering from depression and post-traumatic stress from what he said were attempts by Arizona gangs to recruit him, expressing a fear of drug cartels and saying, “Someday you are going to find me dead in the desert.”
By the time of that 2011 arrest, Llaneza told police he was going by the name of Tarq Kahn and that he believed “secret police or government is trying to follow him.” His father told investigators that his son had briefly served in the Marine Corps before being discharged for an undisclosed reason.
Initially, Llaneza proposed attacking the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco or another unspecified target. He later decided that there would too much security at the Federal Reserve Bank and instead began scouting Bank of America locations in Oakland — because of the symbolism of the name and his belief of Oakland being a center of protests.
As of 4:55pm, there is absolutely zilch on the Web about the name “Tarq Kahn” aside from that SJ Mercury News article. Could “Tarq” be a misspelling of “Tariq”? If so, there’d be little chance of digging up any info about him anyway, as “Tariq Khan” is an extremely common name.
Here’s the FBI Criminal Complaint and Affidavit leading to Llaneza’s arrest.
(Thanks to reader Paula B. for bringing this link to our attention.)