'Miami group accused in Sears Tower plot was primed for holy war'

A group of men accused of plotting to destroy Chicago's Sears Tower were in the final stages of forming a homegrown terrorist cell dedicated to waging an Islamic holy war before they were arrested, a prosecution terrorism expert testified in a Miami courtroom Tuesday. Raymond Tanter, a Georgetown University professor and terrorism scholar for 40 years, said suspected ringleader Narseal Batiste and the other six had nearly completed the "radicalization process" and moved toward acts of terrorism before their arrests in June 2006. Hallmarks of this process include religious conversion, operation within a military-style hierarchy and adoption of goals shared by al-Qaida and other terrorist groups to destroy US landmarks, Tanter said. The final stage - which he called "jihadization" - means the group is ready to plan, recruit and prepare for an attack. Evidence introduced at trial shows that Batiste "was talking only about violent jihad" and not other meanings of the Arabic word, such as self-examination, Tanter said.