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Feds: Hillside teen bent on jihad plotted to blow up downtown bar

The home Hillside where federal authorities said Adel Daoud arrested for allegedly plotting bomb downtown bar lived. Family members denied

The home in Hillside where federal authorities said Adel Daoud, arrested for allegedly plotting to bomb a downtown bar, lived. Family members denied the charges Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012 | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

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Updated: October 17, 2012 6:48AM

On Friday night, a teenager from Hillside bowed his head and allegedly said a prayer that he’d kill as many people as possible.

Then, in an alley in downtown Chicago, according to federal authorities, he pressed a triggering mechanism to detonate a car bomb parked in front of a bar.

It didn’t explode.

But handcuffs were slapped on 18-year-old Adel Daoud.

He had hoped, according to the charges, to “make it in the news . . . tonight.”

Instead, Daoud was set up in a months-long investigation in which an undercover FBI agent acted as Daoud’s partner in the alleged plot.

On Saturday, federal and local authorities announced that Daoud was charged with attempting to destroy a building by means of an explosive and attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction.

Charges in the case led by the Joint Terrorism Task Force alleged that Daoud was pursuing a jihad in Chicago, bent on killing as many Americans as possible in a plot that he grew more intent on carrying out after he began posting items on the Internet about a terrorist attack.

To investigators, Daoud is the portrait of a young, fanatical man radicalized over the Internet, who spoke of jihad to the point that apparently a local religious leader from his mosque told him to quit it. Daoud, a Muslim, targeted a bar because of Islam’s ban on drinking alcohol.

“I want to get the most evil place, but I want to get a more populated place,” Daoud allegedly said. “I wanted something that’s . . . massive; I want something that’s gonna make it in the news like tonight.”

It “won’t kill any Muslims for sure . . . and if you do, it’s their fault,” the charges quote Daoud as saying.

Daoud’s family, however, couldn’t have painted a more diverging portrait.

“My son is innocent,” said a man who answered the phone at the teen’s Hillside home on Saturday.

Daoud’s family described him as so peaceful, he has turned the other cheek even when physically harmed.

A family member who identified herself as Daoud’s sister, but would not give her name, said her brother “is not violent at all.

“You can’t believe everything you hear,” she said of the possibility that her brother was growing more angry, and more violent, over the last year. “That’s false.”

Daoud’s sister said her brother was once punched in school and he didn’t even retaliate.

Adel wanted to go to a school in Canada to learn Arabic, according to the family member.

“I’m his sister. He didn’t go astray. I wish everyone would stick to the facts and not just assume he actually [did] do something. He’s not violent at all,” she said. “He just wanted to study Arabic. Last time I checked that wasn’t a crime. Everyone is innocent until proven guilty.”

The woman said the family had been barraged by phone calls Saturday. “I’m irritated as you would be if you were in my situation.”

Likely sensitive to critics over the years who accuse authorities of a form of entrapment in these types of cases, law enforcement emphasized that Daoud was given multiple opportunities to back out of the violent plot.

He never did, they said.

While law enforcement said they believed he was serious, sources downplayed the sophistication of the alleged plot, saying he did not have any organized ties and spent most of his time online.

“This wasn’t high-level stuff,” one law enforcement source said.

That source said Daoud, a U.S. citizens, told investigators he was part of a cell, but in actuality “there was no cell.” He had friends who were Muslim, but none were willing to go along with the plot or backed out, according to that source.

Daoud had targeted a South Loop bar because drinking is forbidden by Islam. “It had to do with alcohol. This is why he thought it would be a good target.”

Last week, the undercover agent showed Daoud what he had placed inside a Jeep Cherokee and told Daoud it was an explosive device, the charges claim. It was actually inert and constructed by FBI bomb technicians, according to court papers.

Charges say that authorities were monitoring Daoud’s activity after he had posted items online in a jihad Internet forum.

“Osama wasn’t crazy for wanting to destroy America,” Daoud allegedly wrote. “This superpower killed millions of people.”

At one point, it appeared that a religious leader at Daoud’s local mosque attempted to reach out to the young man, according to a communication cited in the criminal charges.

“Even my sheikh in my masjid [mosque] was talking to me about NOT talking about jihad,” Daoud allegedly wrote, according to the charges.

Charging papers say Daoud was captured on tape plotting with the undercover agent as the two met in July. Daoud wanted to convey through any attack that it was terrorism, not to be confused with shootings like the one carried out in Aurora, Colo., he allegedly said.

“[T]hey have to know it’s a terrorist attack. Because if the people just say oh, how like, like the thing that just happened, the, the, the Joker thing. okay . . . Oh, the person was crazy. Oh, that’s so sad . . . That’s it, okay, they forget about it after a week . . . You know what I mean? And, and if he could get away that’s good,” Daoud allegedly said in a recorded conversation. “Because they’ll think oh, terrorism . . . it’ll be like frantic.”

Daoud allegedly tried recruiting others — unsuccessfully — to assist him.

“I am trying to do something [an attack] here [in the United States] . . . pray to Allah for my safety and that I’m successful in this life and the hereafter,” he wrote in an email obtained by the FBI, according to charges.

Later, Daoud surveilled a location downtown, a bar next to a liquor store, that he intended to be the target, according to charges.

“It’s a bar, it’s a liquor store, it’s a concert. All in one bundle,” Daoud allegedly wrote.

The location, he said, would be filled with “the evilest people . . . all the kuffars are there.”

Daoud is scheduled to appear in court on Monday.

Neighbors outside his home in Hillside were stunned by the charges Saturday night. They said they saw police cars outside the home Friday.

Neighbors said the family had lived in the two-story Hillside home with a neatly trimmed lawn for at least 10 years.

Daoud has an older brother and two sisters, multiple neighbors said.

Many people remembered Daoud selling cookies door to door as a young boy. And just a few weeks ago, his parents dropped off treats at neighbors’ houses.

Neighbor Sweetie Lever­son said her nephews, who lived around the corner from Daoud, frequently played basketball and video games with him. Leverson said when Daoud was over with the boys, he was always extremely polite and well-mannered.

“He was the most pleasant boy,” she said. “It’s a big shocker to all of us. It’s like, where did this come from?”

Leverson said before her nephews went to college, Daoud gave them a Quran, and they gave him a Bible. They discussed their religions and how much they had in common, Leverson said.

“There was never an argument or anything,” she said.

The family had dropped off pastries just a few weeks ago, as part of a Ramadan tradition, Leverson said.

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