New details have been released in the arrest of Amer Sinan Alhaggagi, 22, of Oakland, California, who was caught attempting to join ISIS last November. He has formally been charged with attempting to set up social media accounts for the terrorist group after being indicted by a grand jury.
The new details reveal Allhaggagi’s plans include setting brush fires in the Berkeley Hills, selling cocaine laced with strychnine in San Fransisco clubs and plotting Pulse nightclub-style attacks where he intended to plant explosives at local gay bars.
Federal agents say they had him under surveillance for months when he was arrested last November. He has been in custody ever since.
Several of Alhaggagi’s alleged communications identified San Francisco as a good target for an attack because the city is known for its acceptance of LGBT people.
Assistant U.S. Attorney S. Waqar Hasib quoted from one of the messages:
I live close to San Francisco. That’s like the gay capital of the world. I’m going to handle them right. LOL. I’m going to place a bomb in a gay club. … I’m going to tear up the city. … The whole Bay Area is going to be up in flames. My ideas are genius. LMAO
“His plan was to blow up a car bomb at an unidentified gay nightclub in San Francisco and then place backpack bombs around the East Bay,” Hasib said at a recently revealed hearing in December. “He also took the undercover around the UC Berkeley campus and identified buildings, including dorms, where he wanted to plant backpack bombs.”
“He wanted to plan to start a huge fire in an area near where he lived and he specifically mentioned the Berkeley hills as a potential target,” Hasib said. “That was our first indication that we were dealing with someone in the Bay Area.”
Al Haggagi is also alleged to have planned to sell cocaine laced with the rodent poison strychnine, and had applied to work at the Oakland Police Department with the goal of stealing their weapons.
His defenders argue that the then-21-year-old Al Haggagi was just being a deplorable teen with a big mouth, and had no concrete intention of ever doing any of this. “There is a bit of a disconnect between Mr. Al Haggagi’s words and his actions,” his previous attorney Hanni Fakhoury said in recently disclosed court arguments. Fakhoury did not dispute the validity of the messages, but referred to them as simply “very stupid and very inappropriate and very disturbing puffery.”
Al Haggagi’s current attorney Mary McNamara points out that her client dropped all communications with the undercover agents, and months passed without him following through on any of these plans.
“What is clear from that hearing is that Mr. Al Haggagi ran away when he believed that things had gone beyond talk with the undercover agent,” she said. “Mr. Al Haggagi never re-engaged with him and never took any steps to commit any violent act. Unlike most of the cases charged under this statute, Mr. Al Haggagi is not radicalized, is not a supporter of ISIS or any terrorist network. He is a peaceful, sociable and well-liked person. He is also young and naïve. It appears that he allowed himself to be drawn into conversations that he should have been far more suspicious of.”
The Order of Detention filed on December 20th, 2016 was the judge’s decision to keep Amer Al Haggagi in custody. As a result, the defendant was ordered to remain in custody on the identity theft charges.