JOLIET – An Illinois Army National Guard soldier who lived in Aurora and had been based at the Joliet Armory planned a terrorist attack at a facility where he had trained, federal prosecutors said Thursday.
The targeted location was only identified in a federal complaint as a U.S. military facility in northern Illinois. Lt. Col. Brad Leighton, a spokesman for the Illinois National Guard, would not specify where the alleged targeted military installation was.
Leighton did say that Spc. Hasan R. Edmonds primarily trained at the Joliet Armory and noted that the unit occasionally also trained at a facility in Marseilles.
"Joliet was the main area where he would train," Leighton said. "Primarily, they would train at the armory."
Leighton said the Illinois National Guard was informed of a federal investigation into a member of Golf Company 634th Brigade Support Battalion, which is based in Joliet.
Edmonds had vowed to bring "the flames of war to the heart" of America if he was unable to get to the Middle East to join the Islamic State group, federal prosecutors said Thursday in announcing the arrest of Edmonds, 22, and his cousin, Jonas M. Edmonds, 29.
Jonas Edmonds bragged that he could kill at least 150 people in a terrorist attack in the U.S., prosecutors said.
Both suspects lived in Aurora and are U.S. citizens.
Arrests made Wednesday
Hasan Edmonds was arrested Wednesday night at Midway International Airport while trying to board a plane for the first leg of a journey that eventually would take him to Egypt. Jonas Edmonds was arrested earlier that day at his home, the U.S. attorney's office in Chicago said in a statement.
Jonas Edmonds planned to carry out an attack in the U.S. after his cousin left the country, according to the complaint.
The complaint gives details of a meeting between the Edmonds and an unidentified FBI employee where they discussed an attack that would include AK47s and grenades at a military installation.
Jonas Edmonds said he anticipated a body count of 100 to 150. Hasan Edmonds "corrected [him] and advised that the number would be closer to 120" and offered to provide a list of "rankings," the complaint states.
On Tuesday, the three of them drove to the installation and discussed "how to conduct an attack," the complaint states. The discussion included where soldiers trained at the installation.
"Hasan Edmonds described the inside of the installation and which rooms they should avoid during the attack," the complaint states. "Hasan Edmonds also entered the installation and retrieved a military training schedule, which he then gave to Jonas Edmonds."
Jonas Edmonds asked the FBI undercover employee to assist in the attack, according to a news release from the FBI, and "explained that they would use Hasan Edmonds’ uniforms and the information he supplied about how to access the installation and target officers for attack."
Leighton said Hasan Edmonds was a member of the Illinois National Guard unit since August 2011. He had never been deployed overseas.
Leighton would not discuss specific security measures put in place at the Joliet Armory in light of Edmonds' arrest.
"There has been responsible action taken to protect our soldiers and their families," he said. "A lot of our soldiers live in that area, too. We're part of the community."
Suspects made Thursday court appearances
Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner said Thursday that Adjunct General Daniel M. Krumrei and Illinois Public Safety Director Rodger Heaton briefed him about an investigation on Wednesday. He provided no further details.
"On behalf of all citizens of Illinois, I thank all the members of our National Guard as well as the FBI for protecting our state and defending our country," Rauner said in the brief statement.
Chief Brian Benton said Joliet police were not involved with the joint task force that made the arrests and referred questions to the FBI.
Benton said the National Guard arranges its own security for the facility and Joliet police have not been asked to patrol the location more than any other.
Joliet Fire Chief Joseph Formhals said he learned about the Edmonds' arrest from news reports but did not know that he had been based out of Joliet. Mayor Thomas Giarrante said he had not been informed about the arrest or any possible threat in Joliet.
Hasan Edmonds said in messages earlier this year that his knowledge of the U.S. military and American psychology would prove helpful in terrorizing Americans, prosecutors contend. He suggested not just killing people, but capturing and holding others.
"If we can break their spirits, we will win," he said, according to the complaint.
Another time, he spoke admiringly of the recent terrorist attack in Paris on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which killed 12 people.
"Honestly, we would love to do something like the brother in Paris did," Hasan Edmonds wrote, according to prosecutors.
Jonas Edmonds, who the complaint says had a criminal record in the state of Georgia, allegedly communicated to an undercover agent that it may be difficult for him to get his travel documents in order.
And if he could not secure guns, he would use anything he could get his hands on, the complaint cites him as saying.
"I can unleash a lion," he says. "What I would need ... honestly nothing. I am prepared to go even if it's with a rock."
The cousins appeared Thursday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheila Finnegan in federal court in Chicago. Hasan Edmonds' lawyer said his client wanted a bond hearing. Jonas Edmonds' attorney said he won't challenge his detention. A detention hearing for Hasan Edmonds is set for May 30.
Both attorneys declined to comment after the hearing.
Conspiring to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to the FBI news release.
Hasan Edmonds wasn't on active duty, so any criminal allegation will be addressed by civilian federal authorities, Leighton said. Edmonds security clearance had been revoked, he said.
The case was investigated by the FBI’s JTTF, which is comprised of special agents of the FBI, officers of the Chicago Police Department and representatives from an additional 20 federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, according to the FBI.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, the Illinois State Police, the Aurora Police Department and the Illinois National Guard also provided significant assistance.
• Associated Press writer Caryn Rousseau contributed to this report.