WASHINGTON -- A 28-year-old man tried to set off what he thought was a car bomb outside of a bank in Oakland, Calif., Friday morning, federal authorities said. Matthew Aaron Llaneza was arrested as part of an undercover FBI terror sting and charged with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.
Federal authorities allege that Llaneza, of San Jose, Calif., is a Taliban sympathizer who wanted to conduct a terrorist attack in the United States. Previously incarcerated for possessing an AK-47 assault rifle, he was released from state prison in November 2011. Authorities alleged he first met an undercover FBI agent he believed was connected with the Taliban and mujahideen in Afghanistan on Nov. 30, 2012.
FBI agent Christopher Monika said in an affidavit that Llaneza initially proposed structuring his attack to make it appear that an "umbrella organization for a loose collection of anti-government militias and their sympathizers" was behind the attack.
"Llaneza's stated goal was to trigger a governmental crackdown, which he expected would trigger a right-wing counter-response against the government followed by, he hoped, civil war," Monika wrote.
Authorities said Llaneza initially wanted to attack the Federal Reserve Bank in San Francisco but determined there was too much security around that location. Instead, he proposed attacking a Bank of America branch in Oakland and worked with the undercover agent to develop a plan to construct a car bomb, they said. Llaneza allegedly selected a Bank of America location at 303 Hegenberger Road, and planned to set off the car bomb by a support column in hopes of bringing the entire bank down.
The FBI provided the SUV that Llaneza would use for the car bomb. He allegedly laughed and hugged the undercover agent after the agent showed him the SUV in a storage unit rented by the FBI. Llaneza also stated he wanted to travel to Afghanistan so he could train Taliban fighters, according to authorities.
Later, Llaneza and the FBI agent allegedly loaded 12 five-gallon buckets containing chemicals obtained and prepared by the FBI to simulate an explosive mixture into the back of the SUV on Jan. 26. Authorities said Llaneza also purchased two cellphones to use as trigger devices and gave them to the undercover agent.
Llaneza allegedly drove the SUV to the Oakland bank early Friday morning before walking to meet the undercover agent. He was arrested after allegedly placing two calls he believed would set off the trigger device attached to the fake car bomb.