Prosecutor: Man wanted to bomb Harvard University
NEW HAVEN, Connecticut (AP) — A Moroccan man made repeated statements about wanting to bomb Harvard University and Homeland Security offices in Connecticut, a prosecutor said Thursday.
Prosecutor Krishna Patel says El Mehdi Semlali Fathi made the statements, calling them “aspirational” bomb attacks. Authorities have previously said Fathi expressed interest in using remote-controlled toy airplanes to bomb a school and a federal building, but named his alleged targets for the first time Thursday.
Fathi, 26, pleaded guilty Thursday to perjury in connection with his refugee application, admitting he falsely claimed he was arrested and beaten by Moroccan authorities. In February during an interview with a federal agent, Fathi falsely claimed that Moroccan intelligence authorities had arrested him as part of a conspiracy with all of the other members of Jamaat Ansar El-Mehdi, a Moroccan-based terrorist group that was dismantled by Moroccan security forces in 2006, authorities said.
Fathi admitted he was never arrested or persecuted by Moroccan authorities.
The U.S. Attorney’s office also said Thursday that Fathi is not expected to be charged with any terrorism offenses based on the investigation. They declined to comment further.
His attorney, public defender Paul Thomas, declined to comment on the alleged statements.
He faces 18 to 24 months in prison under guidelines when he is sentenced on October 20 and deportation with a bar on returning to the United States after he completes his sentence.
Authorities say Fathi was in the U.S. after his student visa expired in 2009 after he flunked out of Virginia International University. Fathi was facing deportation to Morocco when he made the false statements in seeking political asylum in the U.S., officials say.
An FBI affidavit says Fathi spoke on recorded conversations about a desire to bomb an out-of-state school and a federal building in Connecticut.
In the conversations, Fathi spoke in Arabic and said he would use toy airplanes to deliver the bombs and he had been studying the operation for months, according to the FBI. He allegedly said the money would come from laundered money and drug-dealing profits.
Fathi, who is detained without bail, was arrested in April on immigration-related charges.