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Sting catches alleged terrorist in plot to blow up courthouse

  • Story Highlights
  • Michael Finton, aka Talib Islam, had been dealing with undercover FBI agents
  • Finton arrested in Illinois for trying to blow up federal building and kill occupants
  • Finton made initial appearance in court in Springfield on Thursday, officials said
By Terry Frieden
CNN Justice Producer
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Correction: An earlier version of this story erroneously referred to John Walker Lindh as a "convicted terrorist". The terrorism charge against Lindh was dropped as part of an agreement under which he pleaded guilty to one count of supplying services to the Taliban, and one count of carrying weapons while fighting against the U.S.-backed Northern Alliance. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A would-be terrorist was arrested in Springfield, Illinois, for allegedly attempting to detonate a truck bomb to blow up a federal building and kill its occupants, officials said Thursday.

Michael Finton, shown on his MySpace page, is also known as Talim Islan, authorities say.

Michael Finton, shown on his MySpace page, is also known as Talim Islan, authorities say.

Authorities were waiting Wednesday for Michael Finton, also known as Talib Islam, who unwittingly had been dealing with undercover FBI agents continually monitoring his activities.

Justice Department officials said Finton, 29, of Decatur, Illinois, drove a vehicle he believed contained a ton of explosives to the Paul Findley Federal Building and Courthouse in Springfield. He got out of the truck, got into a waiting car with an undercover agent, and then, when he was a few blocks away, attempted to detonate the bomb with a remote-control device.

"When he pushed the button, nothing happened except he got handcuffs slapped on him," said one Justice Department official familiar with the case. Video Cops: Illinois suspect tried to trigger bomb »

The truck contained inactive explosives.

Authorities said Finton idolized John Walker Lindh -- an American who was captured fighting for the Taliban in Afghanistan -- and said he wanted to go to a training camp abroad to become a jihadist fighter.

Finton made an initial appearance in court in Springfield on Thursday to face charges of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and attempted murder of federal employees, according to Acting U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Lang.

"This alleged plot drives home the stark reality that we must avoid complacency and remain ever vigilant to threats that violent extremists may pose to public safety," Lang said.

The affidavit provided in court said Finton had received funds from an individual in Saudi Arabia, which he used for a month-long trip to that country in April and May of 2008.

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The sting operation became active in February 2009. Two weeks ago, Finton met with an undercover agent and was told the vehicle he would drive would carry about a ton of explosives. Finton said civilian casualties resulting from the bombing would be justified, according to the affidavit.

Authorities stressed the plot was in no way related to the terrorist plot unfolding in New York and Denver.

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