|Families insist suspects not terrorists
MIAMI, Florida (CNN) -- Friends and family of the seven men facing federal charges of aspiring to blow up Chicago's Sears Tower said Friday the men were not involved in terrorism.
The sister of Lyglenson Lemorin, or "Brother Levi," one of the men arrested Thursday on charges of concocting a terrorist plot, said her brother was involved with the group of men to study religion.
Gina Lemorin, who had just returned from her college graduation in Atlanta, Georgia, when she learned of the charges, said he had been with the group in Miami doing construction work.
But when the group began practicing "witchcraft," she said, Lemorin left and moved to Atlanta about four months ago.
Lemorin, 31, has children who live in Atlanta, she said, and he "is not a terrorist."
Lemorin appeared before a federal magistrate Friday in Atlanta, and five of his codefendants did the same in Miami. All were scheduled for arraignment next week.
The seventh man, Stanley Grant Phanor, was in state custody in Miami on a firearms charge and has not yet appeared in federal court.
According to a federal grand jury indictment released Friday, the man who recruited the group, Narseale Batiste, conspired with a government informant to wage "jihad" against the United States. (Full story)
The attack was meant to be grander than the attacks of September 11, 2001, and included planned bombings of the 110-story Sears Tower, the nation's tallest building, and the FBI office in Miami, the indictment says.
While the indictment says the men plotted to "kill all the devils we can," they apparently had no weapons or equipment for such a task.
Batiste gave the informant a list of materials he needed, which included "boots, uniforms, machine guns, radios and vehicles" as well as bulletproof vests and $50,000 in cash, according to the indictment.
Batiste told the informant he was organizing an Islamic army to wage a jihad in the United States, the indictment says.
The family of Phanor, who according to the indictment calls himself "Brother Sunni," told reporters in Miami he was innocent of all charges and was a practicing Roman Catholic, not a Muslim.
"They all call themselves brothers and they are well-mannered," said his older sister, Marlene Phanor. "All they were trying to do was clean up the community. We are Catholic. He's Catholic." She said the family attends St. Mary's Catholic Church in Miami.
Sylvain Plantin, a cousin of Phanor's, said he was involved in a religious group called "Mores," which met to read the Bible.
"They don't eat meat, they don't smoke, they don't drink, and they train highly intensively," he said. "The warehouse is the temple where they all go and pray and meditate."
The windowless warehouse in Liberty City, a predominantly black and low-income area of Miami, was one of several places searched by FBI agents Thursday. Authorities said the men had been living there since March.
Neighbors said the men, who wore turbans, caused no problems but seemed odd.
"All you could do was just see their eyes. They had their whole head wrapped up. Just the eyes showing. And they were standing guard -- one here, one there -- like soldiers. Very quiet," one woman said.
Plantin said what made them suspicious is the training they did.
"They practiced martial arts," he said. "They didn't have guns, bombs and have no money funding."
Phanor's mother, Elizene Phanor, denied her son could be involved in any plot that might kill people.
"My son, he don't have a heart to kill people," she said. Then, kneeling on the ground and raising her arms toward the sky, she repeated, "He don't have a heart to kill people."
A man who identified himself as "Brother Corey" said five of the men arrested in Miami were his "brothers," members of a religious group he identified as the "Seas of David."
Brother Corey said the group has "soldiers in Chicago," but was peaceful and not associated with any terrorist organizations. He said he used the term soldiers because they were soldiers of God.
"This is a place where we worship and also have businesses, as a work site as a construction company we are trying to build up," he said, referring to the warehouse.
He said the Seas of David is a religious group that blends the teachings of Christianity and Islam.