O'Hare terror arrest months in the making

January 23, 2012 4:25:07 PM PST
A suspected terrorist arrested at O'Hare agreed Monday to be returned to Colorado where he will face federal charges.

In this Intelligence Report: The case that culminated in the Chicago arrest was months in the making and offers a glimpse into what authorities say is a growing terror threat.

When federal counter-terrorism agents from Chicago and Denver moved in on a passenger at O'Hare Saturday night, there was nothing knee-jerk about it. They had the Uzbekistan national under surveillance since last spring, and they had court orders to listen to his cell phone conversations, and check his computer e-mails.

The result: The feds say that a significant terror threat was stopped as he was about to board a plane to Istanbul, Turkey.

According to U.S. investigators, Jamshid Muhtorov was working with Islamic Jihad Union, an affiliate of al-Qaeda, when he was arrested Saturday night at O'Hare while changing planes for an overseas flight.

Muhtorov, 35, a refugee from Uzbekistan, had been residing in Aurora, Colorado, outside Denver. According to these charges and an affidavit under federal court seal since last March, Muhtorov pledged to commit foreign terrorist acts, even if it meant dying.

Federal agents say they monitored the suspect's communications with the mastermind of a terrorist website. They say that e-mails intercepted between the men revealed elaborate coded conversations about a "wedding"--that really meant a planned attack. Those invited to the wedding were terrorists, who would bring a "wedding gift" of a bomb.

The "hot season" was the planned time of the attack, according to agents, who said that Muhtorov claimed to be going overseas for his studies that in fact were the plotter's role in the planned attack.

The terror suspect had more than just an O'Hare plane ticket connecting him to the Chicago area. According to federal law enforcement, he had been working for a trucking company, delivering vehicles to several states, including Illinois. It is a job that authorities say helped to finance his alleged terror plans, a job that he quit early this month.