HILLSIDE, Ill. – The investigation started months ago, when the FBI noticed an email message: A man in the Chicago suburbs was using an account to distribute chatter about violent jihad and killing Americans.

Two undercover agents began to talk to him online. In May, they introduced him to another agent who claimed to be a terrorist living in New York.

CAR BOMB WAS PHONY

The operation ended Friday night, an affidavit describing it says, when the man was arrested and accused of trying to detonate what he believed was a car bomb outside of a Chicago bar. Prosecutors said an undercover agent gave Adel Daoud, a U.S. citizen from the Chicago suburb of Hillside, a phony car bomb and watched him press the trigger.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago, which announced the arrest Saturday, said the device was harmless and the public was never at risk. Daoud, 18, is due to appear in federal court Monday on charges of trying to use a weapon of mass destruction and trying to damage and destroy a building with an explosive.

‘EVILEST PEOPLE’

After Daoud began talking to the undercover agents, the affidavit says, the third agent and Daoud met six times in the suburb of Villa Park over the summer and exchanged messages. Daoud then set about identifying 29 potential targets, including military recruiting centers, bars, malls and tourist attractions in Chicago, the document said.

After he settled on a downtown bar, he conducted surveillance on it by using Google Street View and visiting the area in person to take photographs, the affidavit says.

The document does not identify the bar, but says he told the agent it was also a concert venue by a liquor store.

“It’s a bar, it’s a liquor store, it’s a concert. All in one bundle,” the document quotes him as saying. It said he noted the bar would be filled with the “evilest people … kuffars.” Kuffar is the Arabic term for non-believer.

Shortly after 7 p.m. Friday, the affidavit says, Daoud met with the undercover agent in Villa Park and they drove to downtown Chicago, where the restaurants and bars were packed. They entered a parking lot where a Jeep Cherokee containing the phony bomb was parked, the document says.

Daoud drove the vehicle and parked it in front of the bar, then walked a block away and tried to detonate the device by pressing a triggering mechanism, the affidavit says. He was then arrested.

The affidavit says Daoud was active in jihadist Internet forums and was accessing articles written by Anwar al-Awlaki, the U.S.-born radical cleric who became a key figure in the Yemen-based al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. Al-Awlaki was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen last year.

Daoud also told the agent he wanted an attack that would kill many people, the document says.

“I want something that’s gonna make it in the news,” he said, according to the affidavit. “I want to get to like, for me I want to get the most evil place, but I want to get a more populated place.”