US prosecutors yesterday charged a Marine Corps reservist with shootings at four military buildings around Washington, including the Pentagon, and said they found he had bomb-making materials.
Yonathan Melaku, 22, was apprehended on Friday near Arlington National Cemetery and authorities found bullet casings and small bags of a powder later identified as ammonium nitrate in his backpack that he dropped as he tried to flee.
They also found a notebook that made references to the Taliban, al-Qa'ida and Osama bin Laden, and "The Path to Jihad," raising already heightened concerns that a so-called "lone wolf" could have been planning an attack in the United States.
"These were not junior highers shooting BB guns at a local school," said Neil MacBride, the US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. "The contents of Mr Melaku's backpack and the evidence recovered at his residence was of great concern and alarm."
Mekalu has been charged only on four weapons counts so far, including firing on the Pentagon and the National Museum of the Marine Corps last October. Prosecutors did not file charges related to the other materials found but could add them later. If convicted on all of the firearms charges, Melaku could face life in prison.
US law enforcement authorities have been increasingly worried about lone individuals sympathetic towards al-Qa'ida trying to carry out attacks in the United States, particularly after the death of Bin Laden.