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FBI stings man who allegedly had backpack with fake bomb

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • NEW: Sami Samir Hassoun motivated by greed, politics, the FBI says
  • NEW: Hassoun suggested framing Islamic extremist groups for his actions, the FBI says
  • Hassoun was arrested on Sunday
  • He is not connected with terror groups

(CNN) -- A 22-year-old Lebanese citizen was arrested Sunday morning in an FBI sting operation after he placed a backpack he believed contained an explosive device near a trash can on a crowded street corner in Chicago, Illinois, according to the FBI.

Sami Samir Hassoun was charged with a felony count each of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and attempted use of an explosive device, according to the FBI's Chicago field office.

Hassoun, a legal permanent resident of the United States, wanted to cause political upheaval in Chicago, according to an FBI affidavit regarding its investigation.

Undercover agents posing as potential funders for Hassoun's plans told him they would pay him and they wanted "to change how our country [i.e. the United States] treats our people back home," but Hassoun said that "mine is a kind of a different concept than this."

"Hassoun explained he saw attacking Chicago as a means of creating chaos to gain political control of the city and its sources of revenue," the affidavit said.

But differing motivations didn't trouble him.

"We're the same, we're the same boat altogether," he said, according to the affidavit. "We're floating same boat, you know. ... [W]e're doing the same thing, but everybody has their own interest. Because you know why? The results of this is a benefit to everybody."

On more than one occasion, the affidavit says, Hassoun suggested framing extremist groups -- particularly Islamic extremist groups -- for his actions.

In earlier conversations with an informant, the affidavit said, Hassoun appeared to be specifically interested in targeting Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, saying he wanted "to perpetuate a terrorist act or acts that would reflect poorly on Chicago and would embarrass the mayor."

"Hassoun told the CS (cooperating source) that he wanted to take action that would force Chicago's mayor from power," the affidavit said. "Hassoun expressed his opinion that the mayor's policies had weakened Chicago's security apparatus and that he (Hassoun) wanted to do something to show it."

Initially, Hassoun said he wanted to deploy bombs that would not explode but would instead be "found" and "dismantled" before they exploded. In later discussions, however, he was more willing to consider "casualties," according to the affidavit.

Hassoun suggested bombing such sites as Wrigley Field, the entertainment district near it and the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower; distributing a virus in the city; poisoning Lake Michigan; attacking police officers or assassinating Daley, the affidavit says.

The cooperating source brought in the two undercover agents who would provide funds and materials for Hassoun's plans in early July. The group used the next two months on a detailed plan to bomb the entertainment district near Wrigley Field, eventually settling on the September 19 date, according to the affidavit.

The FBI provided a intricate fake bomb that was comprised of "inert materials" and was incapable of detonation.

"In particular, the UCs [undercover agents] told Hassoun that the bomb was surrounded by ball bearings and that its blast would likely destroy half a city block if not more," the affidavit said. "UC-2 explained that as a result of their actions Chicago would be 'different city tomorrow.'"

Hassoun was expected to appear in court Monday afternoon.

CNN's Jeanne Meserve contributed to this report.