Two Chicago men, one of them a Canadian citizen, have been arrested and charged with allegedly plotting to attack a Danish newspaper that published cartoons about the Prophet Muhammad, the U.S. Justice Department says.
In separate criminal complaints unsealed Tuesday, U.S. authorities charged David Coleman Headley, 49, and Tahawwur Hussain Rana, 48, both originally from Pakistan, with one count each of conspiracy to provide material support to an overseas terrorism conspiracy.
Headley, 49, an American who changed his name from Daood Gilani in 2006, was also charged with one count of conspiracy to commit terrorist acts involving murder and maiming outside the United States.
Rana, 48, a Canadian who primarily resides in Chicago, was arrested on Oct. 18 and his home, businesses and farm were searched. His charge relates to support he allegedly gave Headley and at least three other individuals in Pakistan.
The Danish Security and Intelligence Service, or PET, said Tuesday that attacks against the newspaper were not imminent and said they had worked closely with the FBI to thwart the alleged plot.
Patrick J. Fitzgerald , the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, said the complaints allege Headley identified and conducted surveillance of potential targets of a terrorist attack in Denmark on two separate trips to the Scandinavian country in January and July 2009.
Rana is accused of helping to arrange Headley’s travels overseas and concealing their true nature, and also discussed potential targets for attack with Headley, officials said.
Suspect visited targeted newspaper
Rana owns several businesses, including First World Immigration Services, which has offices in Toronto, Chicago and New York. Justice officials allege Headley claimed to be an employee or representative of Rana’s business, but appeared to perform "little if any actual work for the business."
Despite his apparent lack of financial resources, authorities allege Headley travelled extensively since 2008, including multiple trips to Pakistan and various countries in Europe.
They said that beginning in late 2008, Headley corresponded with two other men to plan an attack on one or more facilities and employees of Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten, a Danish newspaper that in 2005 published cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.
Many Muslims took great offence, as Islamic law generally opposes any depiction of the prophet, even favourable, for fear it could lead to idolatry.
Plot codenamed the ‘Mickey Mouse project’
During communications with his alleged cohorts, Headley referred to these plans as the "Mickey Mouse project."
During one trip in January 2009, Headley allegedly visited the newspaper’s offices and claimed to be an employee of Rana’s business, which he said was considering advertising in the newspaper. Headley then instructed Rana to be ready for an email from a Jyllands-Posten sales representative.
Rana allegedly corresponded from Chicago with a representative of the paper by email, pretending to be Headley.
Justice Department officials said the case is not linked to recent terror plot arrests in Boston, New York, Colorado, Texas and central Illinois.
Rana and Headley have been held in federal custody since they were arrested. If convicted, Headley faces a maximum of life imprisonment while Rana faces a maximum of 15 years in prison.