Cleveland bridge bomb plot arrests: Five arrested in plan to blow up bridge
WASHINGTON (AP/ABC7) - The Justice Department says five men have been arrested in a plot to bomb a bridge outside Cleveland.
A department official says the five men are self-described anarchists and are not tied to international terrorism.
The department says the five men were taken into custody on Monday night as part of an undercover operation by law enforcement authorities. The official spoke on condition of anonymity about the ongoing case.
The city's FBI office says the target of the bombing was a bridge in nearby Brecksville, off Route 82. The road travels through Cuyahoga Valley National Park in northern Ohio.
Monday's arrests come in the midst of increased alertness to terror threats as the one-year anniversary of Osama bin Laden's death approaches. Security at airports nationwide has been stepped up, and an increased police presence at Metro stations throughout the D.C. area was noticeable during the Tuesday morning rush.
The five men arrested range in age from 20-35. Three of the men have been charged with conspiracy and attempted use of explosive material. Charges against two others are pending, the U.S. Attorney's Office says.
Meanwhile, the Cleveland area may not have been their only target. According to Chuck Goudie of ABC 7 in Chicago, an FBI agent said in an affidavit that their next move would be to conduct similar attacks during the NATO summit in Chicago.
"It will be crazy in Cleveland, but crazier in Chicago with people coming from everywhere to Chicago to protest the NATO summit," FBI agent Ryan Taylor quotes Douglas L. Wright, one of the suspects, as saying in his statement.
The men already facing charges include Wright, 26, Brandon L. Baxter, 20, and Anthony Hayne, 35. Connor C. Stevens, 20, and Joshua S. Stafford, 23, both have charges pending.
Officials say the plot evolved from an idea to use smoke grenades to distract law enforcement while they destroyed financial institution signs on highrises across downtown Cleveland.
That plot evolved into the use of explosives, settling on the Route 82 bridge as their intended target.
The U.S. Attorney's Office says the public was never in danger and that the explosive devices were inoperable and controlled by an undercover FBI agent. Wright, Baxter and Hayne are set to face a judge on Tuesday.
Brecksville, a suburb of greater Cleveland, is about 15 miles south of the city's downtown area.