FBI: Bombing foiled outside Wrigley concert

September 22, 2010 5:05:49 AM PDT
The FBI arrested an Albany Park man early Sunday morning accused of planting what he thought was a bomb near Wrigley Field.

Agents say the suspect thought he was planting an explosive device and that he was not highly skilled but motivated. The terror suspect allegedly hoped that a bomb attempt in Wrigleyville would shake up the political landscape and get Chicago Mayor Richard Daley out of office, however, the plot was an FBI setup.

The alleged bomb plot was to take place while Wrigleyville was packed with thousands of people. On Saturday night into early Sunday morning, Clark Street was crowded, as many people had just left the Dave Matthews Band concert at Wrigley Field. The FBI says 22-year-old Sami Hassoun, originally from Lebanon, placed what he believed was a backpack filled with explosives in a trash can in front of Slugger's Sports Bar.

"The bars were crowded Saturday night. Whether it is Dave Matthews or not, there are restaurants and bars around there all full," said Steven Strauss, owner of Slugger's. "It is a nightlife area. It would have been a terrible tragedy."

The bomb in the backpack turned out to be a fake, supplied to Hassoun by undercover agents. Investigators say he believed he would be paid for carrying out an attack and hoped it would lead to revolution in Chicago, take Daley out of office and "put some of our guys in."

"The intent was to kill as many people as he could in an area of town that was highly populated at that time of night to create as much destruction as possible," said Robert Grant, FBI, special agent in charge.

The FBI says it has been following Hassoun for more than a year. With the help of a confidential informant, the FBI says Hassoun was recorded talking about setting off car bombs, contaminating the drinking-water supply and assassinating Mayor Daley. Officials say the mayor was never in danger. Hassoun also talked about bombing the Willis Tower, according to the criminal complaint.

"He believed security in the city was not what it once was and he wanted to show that," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel Hammerman.

Tuesday night, the attorney representing Hassoun said his client is not a terrorist.

Hassoun is due in court Wednesday, where a judge will decide if he will remain locked up on charges that he tried to use a weapon of mass destruction.

Hassoun's lawyer says his client has a "unique personality" but comes from a good family.

Some of his friends also said that Hassoun came from a good family and had plans to become a doctor. Other people who know him say he is a care-free party guy and didn't fit the mold of a terrorist.

Elie Mounsef says Hassoun came into his Albany Park business all the time for spinach pie.

"He would come in, make conversation with the workers, purchase something and then leave. You know, hang around a couple of minutes and then take off," said Mounsef.

He says Hassoun, who lives down the block and works at a local sweets shop, never talked about politics nor mentioned a word about Mayor Daley. It was all partying, fun, girls and his dreams of being a doctor.

"That's all he would talk about, girls, drinking and partying and going out tonight. You don't assume [what's] in the back of their minds. It just goes to show that everybody's not what they seem," said Mounsef.

A woman who runs a phone card store below Hassoun's apartment says she knows his parents well.

"They are a nice family. I don't know why. Something [was] maybe pushing him to do that," said Maysoun Rabie, storeowner.


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