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Fake bomb near Wrigley Field leads to Chicago arrest

CHICAGO — A man arrested for allegedly placing a backpack he thought contained an explosive near Chicago's Wrigley Field also talked about poisoning Lake Michigan, bombing a landmark skyscraper and assassinating Mayor Richard Daley, according to a federal complaint filed Monday.

Sami Samir Hassoun, 22, a Lebanese citizen living in Chicago for about three years, was charged with one count each of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and attempted use of an explosive device.

"He wanted to transform the city of Chicago, he wanted to make a statement and he wanted to replace the mayor of Chicago," said FBI special agent in charge Robert Grant. "He was unhappy with the way the city was running. He was also unhappy with things that were happening in other parts of world."

At a brief hearing Monday, Hassoun quietly told U.S. Judge Susan Cox that he understood the charges. Hassoun's federally appointed public defender, Dan McLaughlin, declined to comment on the case, as did several family members who attended the hearing. A message left on an answering machine at Hassoun's home telephone number wasn't returned.

An FBI informant tipped investigators about Hassoun nearly a year ago, the agency said. Grant said Hassoun acted alone and that the undercover agents told him they were from California and unaffiliated with any group. He declined to offer specific details about Hassoun's motivations, but said he believed the agents were ready to give him money if he carried out the attack.

Hassoun was arrested early Sunday after planting the fake explosive device — which was given to him by an undercover agent — in a trash receptacle near Sluggers World Class Sports Bar, a popular bar steps from Wrigley Field, Grant said.

The informant befriended Hassoun over the course of a year, conducting conversations in Arabic, which were taped and shared with the FBI. In that time, Hassoun waffled greatly on his plans.

Initially, he didn't want to cause violence, suggesting setting off smoking devices in downtown locations near City Hall, authorities said.

But his plans became more grand, as he believed bigger acts would command public attention and embarrass the mayor, according to the complaint.

Hassoun's alleged plots ranged during the investigation. They included talk of plans to unleash a biological virus on Chicago and bombing the Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower, the complaint said.

Hassoun on one occasion told the informant he wanted to paralyze commerce in the city, according to the complaint. Asked how he intended to carry out various suggested attacks, Hassoun responded, "You park the car, and let it go 'boom,' " the complaint says.

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