Federal authorities announced Wednesday that they had uncovered an elaborate rocket plot organized by the nation’s fire chiefs. The attacks were planned for Independence Day and were to take place in a coordinated wave, starting in the East Coast and moving westward as the sun set across the country. Targets included cities and national landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty and the Golden Gate Bridge.
Upwards of 30,000 fire chiefs have been taken into custody for questioning by federal agents. Because of the gravity of the accusations and the sheer number of suspects involved, grand jury indictments are not expected until August. Charges will likely include conspiracy to use explosives, bribery and misuse of public funds. Tens of thousands of firefighters are also expected to be arrested on similar charges.
“Thanks to the hard work of our agents and cooperative members of the public, a major attack was averted,” said Janis Ulz, Assistant Deputy of the FBI’s Counter- terrorism Division. “However, we still advise citizens to be vigilant tonight. We have reason to believe that similar explosions might occur in the family-filled streets and quiet cul-de-sacs of neighborhoods around the country.”
Sources say the plot involved setting up hundreds of rows of rockets, many of them manufactured in China and other foreign countries. The rockets were going to be fired into the sky just minutes after sunset. Locations were chosen based on their proximity to the large crowds that are expected to gather for Independence Day celebrations in civic parks and near bodies of water.
“The group of individuals behind this sick plan have no regard for human life,” said one source. “They used their professional titles as a cover to secure permits, materials, and the knowledge to carry out the attack on unsuspecting crowds who would be busy eating hot dogs and sipping cheap alcohol hidden in plastic Gatorade bottles.”
Authorities have not stated whether the fire chiefs acted alone — in individual “cells” — or under the orders of central leadership. While their motives are unknown, some experts worry attacks such as this represent a new form of domestic terrorism.
“There’s no telling when another plot like this will be cooked up,” said Roberta Niesbaum of Security and Borders, a think tank that advises police agencies on the issue of terrorism. “Some of our researchers believe that another large-scale rocket attack was planned for urban centers on or near midnight on the last day of this year. Truly disturbing.”
Because they work for local governments, the suspects will likely be charged with misuse of public funds. It is believed many of them embezzled tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars to purchase the foreign-made rockets.
The suspects will possibly face charges of bribery. To ensure the July 4th attacks were carried out with precision, many fire chiefs were given gifts. These included colorful, hand-drawn pictures of firetrucks by adoring youngsters, free drinks from local coffee shops and even homemade Black Forest cakes from googly-eyed housewives.
Authorities across the country have asked the public to remain alert.
“If you see anyone with strange objects, particularly those with cute green fuses, call 911 immediately,” Assistant Deputy Ulz said. “Also, you should be on the lookout for suspicious behavior, such as relatives crossing state lines to procure goods from shops with names like Pyro-topia or Bob’s Big Blasts.”