Arizona terror suspect planned to target Tuscon JCC

Marcy Oster

(JTA) — An Arizona man accused of plotting attacks on government buildings in the state wanted to target the Tuscon Jewish Community Center, a federal agent said.

Mahin Khan, 18, is charged in Maricopa County Superior Court with terrorism for allegedly plotting to attack buildings in Tucson and Phoenix.

A special agent with the Joint Terrorism Task Force, Benjamin Trentlage, testified at a hearing in court Tuesday that the JCC was a target, alongside a motor vehicle office in Mesa, Arizona, as well as an Air Force recruitment center in Tuscon.

Trentlage said Khan revealed his desire to attack the JCC during a 2015 discussion with an undercover FBI employee. The agent also said that Khan had online exchanges with a person believed to be a member of the Islamic State terrorist group, according to the Associated Press.

The FBI said Khan had also reached out to a member of a known foreign terrorist organization asking how to build a pressure-cooker bomb, the Arizona Republic reported. During one of his communications with FBI agents Khan praised the Paris terrorist attacks in November and said he hoped to kill 200 to 300 people, Trentlage said, according to the Arizona Republic.

Khan lived with his family in a gated community in north Tucson. He threatened to kill his parents if they discovered his scheme and tried to turn him in.

Khan was arrested July 1 after an investigation by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, including being under 24/7 surveillance. He has pleaded not guilty to terrorism charges, including inciting or inducing terrorism, financing or managing terrorism, and manufacturing, possessing or selling a prohibited weapon. He was ordered held without bail for fear he would flee to Syria or Pakistan.

Tucson JCC President and CEO Todd Rockoff said in an email statement that his institution only learned that it was a potential target when news of the hearing was reported, according to the Arizona Jewish Post.

“The Tucson J is very mindful of security issues and our priority is to protect our members, guests and community. We are continually vigilant and are in touch with our local law enforcement agencies on an ongoing basis, including today, to insure our members and guests are safe and secure,” Rockoff said in the statement. “We continually evaluate our procedures and will maintain communication with local authorities.”

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