A former US marine was arrested and charged in California on Friday over an alleged plot to carry out a terrorist attack on Christmas Day, the Justice Department confirmed.
The FBI has charged Everitt Aaron Jameson, 26, with attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.
Court documents posted online by US media allege that Jameson had expressed support for Islamic State (IS) and planned to carry out an attack on Pier 39, a waterfront shopping centre in San Francisco, using explosives and assault rifles.
Jameson allegedly discussed the planned attack with an undercover FBI agent, who he believed to be associated with senior IS leaders, saying it needed to be “something along the lines of” the deadly attacks in New York in October or San Bernardino in 2015.
He allegedly asked the agent for materials to make a pipe bomb and detailed a plan in which he would use explosives to “tunnel” or “funnel” people into a location where he could start shooting.
He also said he was willing to die in the attack.
The FBI first became aware of Jameson in September after a source noticed that he was liking pro-Islamic State and terrorism posts on Facebook after which it began observing him.
After discussing the alleged plot with the undercover agent in mid-December, Jameson appeared to back out in the following days, telling the agent, “I also don’t think I can do this after all. I’ve reconsidered.”
However, the FBI searched his house on Wednesday, seizing firearms, ammunition, fireworks, an envelope containing his will and a letter that appeared to be meant for investigators to find after the planned attack had been carried out.
In it he made reference to President Donald Trump’s recent decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and said “You all have brought this upon yourselves.”
“These acts will continue until the lions of Islam overtake you… Long live Isil [Islamic State].”
Jameson joined the marines in 2009 but was later discharged for fraudulent enlistment for failing to disclose his history of latent asthma, according to the court documents. During this time he trained as a “sharpshooter.”
If convicted he faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a 250,00-dollar fine.
“Our incredible law enforcement officers have once again helped thwart an alleged plot to kill Americans,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said.
“The threat from radical Islamic terrorism is real—and it is serious—but the American people can be assured that the Department of Justice remains vigilant in protecting our homeland.”