Oklahoma Department of Corrections/Handout via REUTERS
Federal officials said Monday that a 23-year-old man had been arrested for allegedly plotting to blow up a bomb in downtown Oklahoma City.
KFORreport that according to a criminal complaint, the FBI arrested the 23-year-old Jerry Drake Varnell of Sayre, Oklahoma, on 12 August, 1am, after he allegedly attempted to detonate what is believed to be an explosives-laden van, parked next to a downtown Oklahoma bank.
He was reportedly acting out of a hatred for the US government and in admiration for Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, according to the Washington Post.
Picture: Oklahoma Department of Corrections/Handout via REUTERS
The FBI complaint said Varnell initially said he wanted to target the Federal Reserve Bank building in Washington D.C.
The Los Angeles Times reports that Varnell wrote to an undercover FBI agent, working in a sting operation embedded in an anti government movement:
I’m out for blood.
He said he wanted to take some action that would "somehow cripple the government" and said he adhered to a "III per cent ideology", referring to a militia group that believes the government routinely violates the US Constitution.
Kathryn Peterson, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oklahoma, told reporters:
There was never a concern that our community’s safety or security was at risk during this investigation.
I can assure the public, without hesitation, that we had Varnell’s actions monitored every step of the way.
BancFirst, the target of the operation, said in a statement:
BancFirst has been working cooperatively with the FBI.
At no time were employees, customers or the general public ever in any danger.
We believe our BancFirst downtown Oklahoma City building was a random and convenient selection by the suspect.
There is no further threat or reason for concern.
We take comfort and our company embraces a deep appreciation and admiration for the men and women of the FBI for their diligent and dedicated work in protecting our nation.
U.S. Senator James Lankford. who served on the Intelligence Committee and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said in a statement:
I applaud the work of the FBI and local law enforcement for investigating and apprehending a man who sought to commit a terrorist act in Oklahoma City.
Our intelligence community and law enforcement work every day to protect our neighbourhoods from attacks and terror, and they often do it without the public ever knowing.
It is chilling to think that a sympathiser of Timothy McVeigh would want to act on hate, as a tribute to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil before September 11.
We’re thankful for the concerned citizens that stepped forward to alert authorities about this man.
This is another sombre reminder that, as a nation, we must remain vigilant about home-grown extremism and radicalisation in our communities.
The BBC reports the van was loaded with 1,000lbs (453 kg) of explosives, and that Mr Varnell is charged with attempting to use explosives to destroy a building of interstate commerce.