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Illinois Man Pleads Guilty to "WMD" Grenade Plot

An Illinois man pleaded guilty yesterday to planning to use a weapon of mass destruction against persons and property for his stated intention to set off hand grenades at a shopping mall during last year's Christmas shopping season, the Associated Press reported.

Federal authorities arrested Derrick Shareef, 23, of Rockford, in December 2006 after recording a series of conversations in which Shareef told an FBI informant that he wanted to detonate hand grenades inside garbage cans at the local shopping center.

Prosecutors believe Shareef wanted the explosions to send deadly metal garbage-can shards through the air to kill shoppers.

The informant later put Shareef in contact with an undercover agent playing the role of a weapons dealer, said federal prosecutor Sergio Acosta.  Shareef was arrested after he offered stereo speakers to the agent in hopes of receiving four hand grenades and a gun in return.

Despite his plea, Shareef said he meant no harm and had been "coerced into doing things and trapped into doing things."

Authorities said there was no reason to believe that Shareef was mentally disturbed and posed no serious threat.  Prosecutors did not claim he had been affiliated with any major terrorist group.

"I think a reasonable person can conclude that if you throw a hand grenade into a crowded mall at Christmas time you're going to cause serious injuries," said Greg Fowler, assistant special agent in charge of the FBI office in Chicago.

Shareef is scheduled to be sentenced March 14 in federal court.  He faces a sentence of 30 years to life (Mike Robinson, Associated Press/Belleville News-Democrat).

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