The Justice Department says two men have been arrested in a plot to attack a military recruit processing station in Seattle with machine guns and grenades.

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There was a point in the alleged conspiracy to maim and kill recruits and workers at a Military Entrance Processing Station in South Seattle when one of the plotters predicted they would be making headlines.

They did, just not in the way intended.

Abu Khalid Abdul-Latif, also known as Joseph Anthony Davis, 33, of SeaTac, and Walli Mujahidh, aka Frederick Domingue Jr., 32, of Los Angeles, appeared in U.S. District Court in Seattle on Thursday on charges alleging they purchased machine guns and grenades from a paid police informant earlier this week as they moved into the final stages of planning an attack they hoped would inspire an uprising among radical Muslims in the United States.

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Mujahidh arrived in Seattle from Los Angeles on Tuesday and he, Abdul-Latif and the informant went to lunch, according to details contained in a 38-page complaint. The men discussed details of the attack, including where they would hide the weapons.

The informant predicted, according to the complaint, that the case would make the news, and Mujahidh “described the imaginary headline of a newspaper article: ‘Three Muslim Males Walk Into MEPS building, Seattle, Washington, and Gun Down Everybody.’ “

The men face up to life in prison if convicted.

Details contained in the complaint and gleaned from other court documents and interviews show the men to be “self-radicalized,” with no known affiliation to al-Qaida or other terrorist organizations.

Both men are U.S. citizens and converts to Islam, according to the charges. Abdul-Latif is a felon who spent 2 ½ years in prison on robbery and assault charges. Mujahidh had been living in Los Angeles, but came to Seattle as the plan developed, according to the charges. He has no felony criminal history, although he was named in a civil domestic-violence protective order filed in King County in 2007 by his wife.

The men are charged with conspiracy to murder U.S. officers, conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction (a grenade) and other firearms-related counts. U.S. Magistrate Judge Mary Alice Theiler ordered them held pending a detention hearing next Wednesday. The maximum penalty for the crimes is life in prison; however, the firearms-related counts carry 30-year mandatory minimum sentences.

U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan urged people to keep the arrests in perspective.

“These are the actions of individuals who adhere to a violent and extreme ideology and do not represent and should not reflect on the Muslim community as a whole,” she said. “We hope there is no backlash here. That would not be fair or what we stand for.”

How police found out

The complaint details an escalating plot discovered by police on May 30 after Abdul-Latif approached another man who he believed shared a radical Islamic ideology.

The charges allege that Abdul-Latif had known the man for several years and believed he could help him obtain weapons he wanted to use to attack the U.S. military because of events in Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen.

The man, however, went to Seattle police. The complaint does not identify the informant by name, but describes him as a five-time felon who was paid for his efforts.

As a result, many of the conversations and actions of the men over the past four weeks were recorded, according to the charges.

The men were arrested after the informant delivered three automatic rifles and several grenades — all secretly rendered inoperable — to the men Tuesday night at a warehouse in Seattle.

According to charges, Abdul-Latif was recorded saying his anger over the United States military’s real or perceived activities in Afghanistan, Iraq and Yemen motivated the planned attack.

A law-enforcement source familiar with the investigation said that Abdul-Latif was upset at revelations coming from military courts-martial proceedings against a group of soldiers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord accused of murdering innocent civilians in Afghanistan.

The men at first considered attacking the base, but decided it was too difficult a target.

The complaint says Abdul-Latif had said he admired Osama bin Laden.

FBI agents seized a number of DVDs and other materials from Abdul-Latif’s home. “There was a lot of mujahedeen stuff. A lot of radical literature,” the source said.

Abdul-Latif’s wife, Binta Moussa-Davis, 46, said Thursday night that she hasn’t seen nor heard from her husband since he left with Mujahidh and another man — the FBI informant — on Wednesday night.

“The next thing I know the FBI is here, ‘Bam, bam, bam’ they knock and they come in and they search the entire house,” she said. “They said they arrested my husband. That he had been with bad men.

“I don’t know anything more. He is a very good person. He worked hard and then he come home and watch TV,” she said. “I don’t even know how this could happen.”

According to the complaint, the confidential informant asked Abdul-Latif and Mujahihd repeatedly about their commitment to the attack. Both said they would go forward and were involved in fine-tuning the plan over the three weeks before their arrests.

On June 14, Abdul-Latif met with the informant, who showed him several weapons provided by federal agents for a “show and tell.” The meeting was taped. Abdul-Latif chose an M16-style weapon because it had more firepower that would “leave a bigger hole,” according to the charges.

He said he would pay for the weapons with money he had set aside for a religious pilgrimage.

Last week, the paid informant was sent by the group to scout the MEPS facility, and the trio huddled over a diagram of the floor plan at Abdul-Latif’s apartment and discussed a step-by-step plan for attack.

At least twice during the investigation, Abdul-Latif said the attack was inspired by the murderous shooting spree at Fort Hood in 2009, where a Muslim Army psychiatrist, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, killed 13 people and wounded 29 others.

The men planned to storm the building, kill the security guards, order everyone to the floor and kill as many military recruits as possible, according to the federal complaint. They talked about how they would target men wearing green and with short haircuts, according to the charges. The men scouted the center and discussed in detail the attack, including plans to kill the security guard in the lobby and order everyone else to the floor.

Grenades would be thrown in the cafeteria, and then they would walk through the hallways, firing their assault weapons, the complaint says.

“Driven by a violent, extreme ideology, these two young Americans are charged with plotting to murder men and women who were enlisting in the armed forces to serve and protect our country,” said Todd Hinnen, acting assistant attorney general for national security, adding that this “is one of a number of recent plots targeting our military here at home.”

In Seattle, outside the military processing center Thursday afternoon, many of the 600 center employees were enjoying an annual picnic, an event that almost didn’t happen because of the plot.

“We were about ready to cancel the picnic,” said U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Col. Anthony Wright.

Wright said the plot was the most serious threat made against the center in three years, but he wouldn’t elaborate on any previous threats that were made.

The federal center, a brick building mostly hidden by trees from the street, houses 300 workers along with the processing center workers. It’s one of a network of 65 such MEPS facilities in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

In the wake of the arrests, Gov. Chris Gregoire and Sen. Maria Cantwell both issued statements thanking law-enforcement agencies for their work.

“These arrests highlight the need for continued vigilance, and the importance of communication between our local, state and federal law-enforcement agencies,” Cantwell said. “Today, our thoughts and prayers go out to America’s military, who put their lives on the line to defend our country both at home and abroad.”

Mike Carter: 206-464-3706 or mcarter@seattletimes.com

Seattle Times staff reporters Steve Miletich, Susan Kelleher, Jessie Van Berkel and J.B. Wogan and news researchers David Turim, Gene Balk and Miyoko Wolf contributed to this report.