By Luis Arellano
An American man who admired Islamic jihadist is accused of plotting a terrorist attack on the National Harbor along the Potomac River according to charges filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland.
The government alleges that Rondell Henry, a 28-year-old from Germantown, Maryland, stole a U-Haul van with the intention of using it as a weapon against pedestrians on sidewalks.
“After stealing the van, Henry drove around, arriving at Dulles International Airport in Virginia at approximately 5:00 a.m. on Wednesday, March 27, 2019,” officials told Fox News. “The government’s motion for detention alleges that Henry exited his U-Haul and entered the terminal, trying to find a way through security, allegedly to harm ‘disbelievers’ in a way designed for maximum publicity. After more than two hours of failing to breach Dulles’s security perimeter, Henry allegedly returned to the U-Haul.”
Henry was captured the next day near the National Harbor.
The plot appears to be a copycat crime. Eight people were killed and 48 injured in June 2017 when Islamic terrorists ran their truck into pedestrians on the London Bridge. The three men then jumped out of the vehicle and stabbed other people. Terrorists carried out a similar attack in New York City that Halloween, using a vehicle to kill eight people in what was the bloodiest incident of terrorism in New York City since 9/11. The rise in vehicular terrorist attacks has led to many cities adding further anti-vehicle impediments in pedestrian areas.
Terrorist analysts noted that unlike similar lone-wolf terrorist attacks the plot was hatched and launched on a single day. On March 27, Henry walked off his job, destroyed a cellphone with images of the shooter behind an attack on a Gay nightclub in Florida in 2018 and attempted his assault on Dulles Airport, authorities said.
As of Tuesday, officials were holding Henry on charges of taking a stolen car across state lines. They have not charged him with terror-related crimes.
The government’s motion, however, opens with a quote from a videotaped statement it says Henry made to them: “I was just going to keep driving and driving and driving. I wasn’t going to stop.”
“The defendant, though, did not have any weapons training…But he knew how to drive, and he also knew of the terrorist truck attack in Nice, France [in 2016, which killed 86 and injured 458 others]. So the defendant decided to use what was readily at his disposal and conduct a vehicular attack on a crowd of innocents.”
The National Harbor is an event center complex that includes shopping and retail outlets as well as chain hotel establishments. A large convention center on site is frequently used by the Conservative Political Action Conference or (CPAC) each February for the largest gathering of conservative and libertarian politicians and activists in the country.
Henry’s lawyer, an assistant public defender named Michael Citaramanis, disputed the charges. “The only evidence the government has to submit is what they claim Mr. Henry” told law enforcement, he said. “We don’t know exactly everything Mr. Henry said.”