Two Chicago men have been arrested on federal charges that link them to planning terrorist acts — including targeting a Danish newspaper that published a controversial cartoon of the prophet Mohammed in 2005.
Dubbed “The Mickey Mouse Project,” the two men are accused of plotting to target the employees at facilities of the Danish newspaper Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten, which ran the cartoon.
The cartoon depicted Mohammed wearing a bomb as a turban with a lit fuse. It sparked violent riots across the Muslim world, as well as a plot to assassinate Kurt Westergaard, the cartoonist who sketched the image.
David Coleman Headley, 49, and Tahawwur Hussain Rana, 48, are charged in separate criminal complaints made public today by federal authorities in Chicago.
The FBI arrested Headley at O’Hare Airport Oct. 3, while he was was boarding a flight ultimately bound for Pakistan.
After he was picked up by the FBI on Oct. 3, Headley allegedly confessed to the federal agents that he surveilled the Jyllands-Posten offices in Copenhagen and Arhus, Denmark as part of a plot to attack the facility, according to charges.
But Headley told agents he had refocused the plot away from the entire building and narrowed it to Westergaard and the paper’s cultural editor, Flemming Rose: “Whom Headley felt were directly responsible for the cartoons,” the complaint states.
He also allegedly told agents he did surveillance Danish troops that were posted nearby. And he told agents he was trained by a terrorist organization called Lashkar-e-Taiba, according to his criminal complaint.
Headley was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit terrorist acts involving murder and maiming outside the United States and one count of conspiracy to provide material support to the alleged overseas terrorism conspiracy.
Rana, a native of Pakistan who is a Canadian citizen, was arrested Oct. 18 at his home on the North Side of Chicago.
Rana owns several businesses, including First World Immigration Services, which has offices on Devon Avenue in Chicago, New York and Toronto.
Rana was charged with conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorism conspiracy that involved Headley and at least three other specific individuals in Pakistan.
On Oct. 18, the FBI carried out a search warrant on a Grundy County plant in Kinsman, Ill., authorities said is owned by Rana. The plant is used to slaughter goats and sheep according to Muslim religious requirements, providing “halal” meat to Muslim customers and to a grocery store in Chicago.
Witnesses said about 100 agents carried out the search warrant, some wearing military apparel similar to the uniforms of U.S. National Guardsmen. Helicopters, trucks and SUVs could be seen in front of the building during the raid and stayed until at least 9 p.m.
According to the allegations made public today, Headley was involved in surveillance of potential targets in Denmark during two trips there this year, in January and July, and that they got to know each other at a school they attended in Pakistan.
“Because of the serious nature of the allegations, I think it would be inappropriate to comment on the substance of the allegations,” said Headley’s lawyer, John Theis.
Rana's lawyer, Patrick Blegen, said: “Mr. Rana is a well-respected businessman in the Chicagoland community. He adamantly denies the charges and eagerly awaits his opportunity to contest them in court and to clear his and his family’s name. We would ask that the community respect the fact that these are merely allegations and not proof.”
Last year, newspapers in Europe reprinted the controversial cartoon, after three people were arrested in connection with the alleged assassination plot.
In October 2008, authorities say Headley, using the name Daood Gilani, posted a message to a Yahoo group called “abdalians.”
According to the charges made public today, the posting read: “Everything is not a joke . . . We are not rehearsing a skit on Saturday Night Live. Making fun of Islam is making fun of Rasoosallah SAW (Messenger of Allah, Peace be on Him) . . . Call me old-fashioned but I feel disposed towards violence for the offending parties, be they cartoonists from Denmark or Sherry Jones (Author of Jewel Medina) or Irshad Manji . . . They never started debates with folks who slandered our Prophet, they took violent action. Even if God doesn’t give us the opportunity to bring our intentions to fruition, we will claim ajr (a religious reward) for it . . ."