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Yemen emigre plotted to kill returning troops, FBI says

Mufid Elfgeeh of Rochester, N.Y., was taken from his arraignment in federal court.

Jamie Germano/Democrat & Chronicle via Associated Press

Mufid Elfgeeh of Rochester, N.Y., was taken from his arraignment in federal court.

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — A New York business owner from Yemen plotted vengeance attacks against members of the US military for American actions overseas and Shi’ite Muslims over the civil war in Syria, according to federal officials.

Authorities said in court papers that Mufid Elfgeeh, 30, of Rochester, bought two handguns and two silencers as part of a plan to kill members of the US armed forces returning from war, as well as Shi’ites in the Rochester area.

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Elfgeeh was arrested Saturday and faces two counts of receiving and possessing an unregistered firearm silencer. No plea was entered during a court appearance Monday. Public defender Mark Hosken, who was appointed to handle the case, was not available for comment.

The investigation included linking Elfgeeh’s home computer to tweets from alias Twitter accounts expressing support for Al Qaeda, violent holy war, and Sunni insurgent groups in Syria, according to court papers.

The FBI gave an informant a Walther PPK .32-caliber handgun and a Glock 26, 9 mm handgun, both with functional silencers affixed to the barrels, two boxes of .32-caliber ammunition, and two boxes of 9-millimeter ammunition, according to the affidavit.

Elfgeeh, a naturalized US citizen who operates Halal Mojo and Food Mart in Rochester, paid the informant $1,050 in the transaction completed Saturday afternoon and was immediately arrested for possession of the silencers not registered in his name.

US Attorney William Hochul said Monday Elfgeeh faces 10 years in prison for each silencer and the possibility of a $250,000 fine.

Elfgeeh frequently used Twitter to tweet and retweet messages expressing support for various terrorist groups and holy war, seeking donations to assist fighters in Syria, and praising Al Qaeda as ‘‘our only savior,’’ authorities said.

According to an FBI affidavit, a government informant taped a December conversation with Elfgeeh in which he stated: ‘‘I’m thinking about doing something here to be honest with you. I’m thinking about just go buy a big automatic gun from off the street or something and a lot of bullets and just put on a vest or whatever and just go around and start shooting.’’

Authorities said Elfgeeh changed his plans in March to killing returning soldiers, and he said in a taped conversation with an informant that he planned to act alone: ‘‘It could be right now in the daytime, and I could be . . . like this guy here or something . . . I could just go back and wait for him to when he leave to go to his garage, and just walk up slowly, boom, boom, boom, inside his garage.’’

When an informant asked him whether he was going to release a video message of his attacks, Elfgeeh responded, ‘‘Once we do five or ten already, 15, something like that . . . then we gonna say something,’’ according to the affidavit.

Even though Elfgeeh used the word ‘‘we,’’ most of his comments indicated he intended to act alone and not immediately.

The FBI said it had been investigating Elfgeeh since early last year.

After his appearance Monday before a federal magistrate, Elfgeeh was sent to Monroe County Jail.

A bail hearing has been scheduled for June 16.

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