Would-Be Illinois Mall Bomber Charged

Derrick Shareef, a would-be jihadist who tried to blow up an Illinois mall, has been charged.

A man who authorities said wanted to commit acts of “violent jihad” against civilians was charged Friday in a plot to set off hand grenades in garbage cans at a shopping mall, authorities said. Derrick Shareef, 22, of Rockford, was arrested Wednesday when he met with an undercover agent in a parking lot to trade a set of stereo speakers for four hand grenades and a handgun.

Shareef was acting alone and not in concert with any terrorist group, authorities said.

Officials said Shareef had been under investigation since September, when he told an acquaintance that “he wanted to commit acts of violent jihad against targets in the United States as well as commit other crimes.” The acquaintance immediately informed the FBI, officials said.

Federal officials said Shareef planned to set off four hand grenades in garbage cans at the CherryVale shopping mall in Rockford, about 90 miles northwest of Chicago. He was charged with one count of attempting to damage or destroy a building by fire or explosion and one count of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction.

“While these are very serious charges, at no time was the public in any imminent peril,” U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald said in a news release.

My guess is that the reasons Shareef was not a member of any known terrorist group and that the public was not in imminent peril are both explainable with a simple IQ test.

Further, I’m not sure that four hand grenades constitute a “weapon of mass destruction,” unless there were chemical or biological agents involved. Then again, some have applied that definition post hoc in Iraq.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Perhaps the two charges (Damage/destroy a building and WMD) are linked. If you set the hand grenade to go off at the gas meter, its more than a hand grenade. If you have a plan to somehow get the gas into the mall and then toss the grenade, you are getting closer still.

    Even so, I think you are right that if they have a WMD charge, there is probably something more to the weaponry than described.

  2. Michael says:

    There is no way hand grenades can count as a weapon of mass destruction. You can come up with all the scenarios you want about gas meters, but all you’re doing is making the argument that a single match is a weapon of mass destruction.

    If they are serious about that charge, it’s probably because they offered or sold him a device they said was a WMD, that he said he was going to use.