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Columbia Man Charged In Terrorist Plot After FBI Sting

A Columbia man allegedly plotting a Presidents Day terrorist attack was charged in federal court Tuesday.

Tammy Dickerson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, says 25-year-old Robert Lorenzo Hester Jr., 25, believed he was meeting with members of ISIS who were actually undercover law enforcement agents.

“First on social media, then during face-to-face meetings with an undercover FBI employee, this defendant repeatedly expressed his intent to engage in acts of violent jihad against the United States,” Dickerson said in a statement.

Hester is a U.S. citizen who was born in Missouri. He briefly served in the U.S. Army before receiving a general discharge in 2013.

FBI agents began examining Hester’s publically available social media posts last fall. He used a number of online aliases, including “Mohammed Junaid Al Amreeki,” “Junaid Muhammad,” “Rabbani Junaid Muhammad,” “Rami Talib” and “Ali Talib Muhammad,” to express hostility toward the United States.

On Jan. 31, an undercover agent pretending to have ties to ISIS provided Hester with a list of items that could be used to make bombs. According to the affidavit, when the undercover agent implied that the materials would be used “to bring them to their knees,” Hester replied, “I can’t wait. I can’t wait.” He purchased 9-volt batteries, roofing nails and duct tape the next day.

The targets of the attack were to be buses, trains and a Kansas City train station.

Hester was arrested on Feb. 17 after following an undercover FBI agent to a storage facility. He's been charged with attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq.

“Countering terrorist threats remains the highest priority of the National Security Division, and we will continue our efforts to identify and hold accountable those who seek to commit acts of terrorism within our borders,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Mary B. McCord said in a statement.

Elle Moxley covers Missouri schools and politics for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley.

Elle Moxley covered education for KCUR.
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