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Federal agents claimed tonight to have thwarted a bizarre plot by two neo-Nazi skinheads in Tennessee to kill 102 black Americans and then assassinate Barack Obama. |
The US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms said it arrested last week two armed men who had planned to rob a gun store to acquire further firearms and then embark on a murder spree which would end with them driving their car at high speed towards the Democratic presidential nominee while shooting at him from the windows.
They would have been wearing white tuxedos and top hats during the assassination attempt and expected to die, they told agents.
Jim Cavanaugh, special agent in charge of the ATF's Nashville field office, said the authorities took the threat seriously and the two men - Daniel Cowart, 20, from Tennessee and Paul Schelessman, 18, from Arkansas - were being held without bond.
Brian Weaks, a ATF agent, told a court in Memphis that the two neo-Nazis met through the internet and had "very strong beliefs and views regarding 'white power' and 'skinhead' views. Mr Cowart possessed a rifle and two handguns, both stolen from his grandfather. They had bought food, nylon rope and ski masks and had planned a series of robberies to finance their plan.
Mr Cavanaugh said they intended to shoot 88 African Americans and decapitate another 14 in a killing spree that would have included an attack on an unidentified high school - the numbers 88 and 14 have a symbolic significance for white supremacists. They would then have driven from state to state, killing people as they went, with Mr Obama their final target.
"They said that would be their last, final act - that they would attempt to kill Senator Obama," said Mr Cavanaugh. "They didn't believe they would be able to do it, but that they would get killed trying."
Court papers released today said: "Both individuals stated they would dress in all white tuxedos and wear top hats during the assassination attempt... Both individuals further state they knew would and were willing to die during this attempt."
Mr Cavanaugh added: "They seemed determined to do it. Even if they were just to try it, it would be a trail of tears around the south."
The Obama campaign declined to comment tonight.