Harlem Suarez wanted to bring terror to the Conch Republic, according to the FBI. The 23-year-old, also known as Almlak Benitez, was arrested after the feds claimed they uncovered a plot in which he planned to build a bomb and plant it under the sands of a Key West beach. After attacking the Keys, Suarez also wanted to plant bombs in South Beach.
Suarez came to the FBI's attention this past April after making Facebook posts promoting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, a terrorist organization also known as ISIS. Someone tipped off the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office after receiving a friend request from someone using the name "Almlak Benitez."
"Be a warrior, learn how to cut your enemies head and then burn down the body learn how to be the new future of the world Caliphate," he wrote in one such posting.
"I need some emest from any brother. How to make a bomb send me a video or something, and what do I need to make it," he wrote in another.
The PBSO then tipped off the FBI, and the agency then tracked back the "Benitez" page to Suarez's profile that he kept under his real name.
That other profile remains mostly private with little information available to the public other than that he liked some pages, including those of Waka Flocka Flame and the Poltergeist movies. Though, Heavy.com found that according to an update on a friend's page, Suarez, who lived at home with his parents, was at Bare Assets strip club in Key West and wrote, “I’m ready to make it rain while I’m blowing up.”
The Facebook profile also indicates Suarez is a Key West native.
An FBI confidential human source located in West Palm Beach (the complaint does not make it completely clear whether it's the same person who originally tipped off the PBSO) made contact with Suarez, and the suspect divulged his plot to blow up a beach. He allegedly planned to use a weapon known as a "timer bomb," a device that is filled with nails and able to be concealed easily in a backpack. Suarez planned to bury the bomb under the sand on a public beach and then detonate the device via cell phone.
"We can make it with a phone because if one day I get a day off, I can go to the beach at nighttime... put the thing in the sand... cover it up. So the next day, I just call and the thing gonna, is gonna make... a real hard noise from nowhere, and like people are gonna be like what, where this shit came from?" Suarez said during one phone discussion with the source.
Suarez also claimed to be in possession of two Glock handguns but also implied to the source that he was interested in obtaining a rifle, a bulletproof vest, and grenades.
Eventually, Suarez and the source met in person, and Suarez talked about wanting to make an ISIS recruiting video. The two would eventually meet at a Homestead motel to do so. Suarez showed up and, dressed in tactical gear while holding weapons, made his pitch before the camera. He also talked about eventually going to a Miami-area mosque to possibly recruit new members for the cause.
The source and Suarez would later come to an agreement that if Suarez provided the supplies, the source would have someone build the timer bomb Suarez wanted. Suarez provided the material July 19. When he went to pick up the bomb yesterday, he was arrested.
Suarez had also discussed with the source the possibility of placing bombs in Marathon and South Beach during July 4 in terrorist-style attacks, though those ideas had not been as well-planned-out.
He has been charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction within the United States. The crime is punishable by life in prison.
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“Stopping attacks on our homeland by those inspired or directed by designated foreign terrorist organizations is the highest priority of the National Security Division," Assistant Attorney General John P. Carlin said in a statement.
Members of the FBI, South Florida U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer's office, the South Florida Joint Terrorism Task Force, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI), the Key West Police Department, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives all took part in the investigation.