Obama 'plot' skinheads lacked formal plan

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The Independent US

Two neo-Nazi skinheads accused of plotting to kill Barack Obama and dozens of black children did not appear to have had any formal assassination plan, the US Secret Service said today.

Daniel Cowart and Paul Schlesselman planned to drive as fast as they could at Mr Obama, who would be America's first black president if elected next week, shooting at him from the windows while wearing white tuxedos and top hats, court documents showed.

The two men also planned to shoot or decapitate 88 black people in a Tennessee murder spree which was broken up by government agents, authorities said.

Cowart, 20, of Bells, Tennessee, and Schlesselman 18, of West Helena, Arkansas, indicated they were willing to die during the assassination bid.

Secret Service spokesman Eric Zahren said the two men did not appear to have any formal plan, but added: "Whether or not they had the capability or the wherewithal to carry out an attack remains to be seen."

The pair, who were denied bail, also planned to target an unnamed high school with predominantly African American students.

They are charged with possessing an unregistered firearm, conspiring to steal firearms from a federally-licensed gun dealer and threatening a candidate for president.

Jim Cavanaugh, special agent in charge of the Nashville field office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said the two men planned to kill 88 black people, including 14 by decapitation, before targeting Mr Obama.

Mr Cavanaugh said: "They said that would be their last, final act - that they would attempt to kill Senator Obama.

"They didn't believe they would be able to do it, but that they would get killed trying."

The investigation was continuing and more charges were possible, Mr Cavanaugh added.

Agents seized a rifle, a sawn-off shotgun and three pistols from the men when they were arrested and US authorities said the two men were preparing to break into a gun shop to steal more.

Mr Cavanaugh said authorities took the threats very seriously.

"They seemed determined to do it," he said.

"Even if they were just to try it, it would be a trail of tears around the South."

US authorities said the two men, who allegedly met on the internet, were arrested in Crockett County, Tennessee, on October 22.

Crockett County Sheriff Troy Klyce said: "Once we arrested the defendants and suspected they had violated federal law, we immediately contacted federal authorities."

For the Obama plot, the legal documents showed Cowart and Schlesselman "planned to drive their vehicle as fast as they could toward Obama shooting at him from the windows".

"Both individuals stated they would dress in all white tuxedos and wear top hats during the assassination attempt," the court complaint said.

"Both individuals further stated they knew they would and were willing to die during this attempt."

The court documents alleged the two men met about a month ago and found common ground in their shared "white power" and "skinhead" philosophy.

The numbers 14 and 88 are symbolic in skinhead culture.

The number 14 refers to a 14-word phrase attributed to an imprisoned white supremacist: "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children."

And 88 refers to the eighth letter of the alphabet, H, twice, standing for "Heil Hitler".

An Obama campaign spokeswoman travelling with the presidential front runner in Pennsylvania had no immediate comment.