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Wal-Mart cashier foils cellphone terror plot

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An eagle-eyed Wal-Mart clerk in Caro, Michigan may have foiled a dastardly terrorist plot simply by alerting police to a suspicious purchase made by three men of Middle-Eastern descent, the Associated Press reports.

Police are holding the men on terror charges because they bought 80 pre-paid cell phones in violation of Wal-Mart policy, which limits to three the number of phones one can buy.

In the van the men were driving, police found an alarming cache of nearly 1,000 cell phones, which "can be used as detonators", Caro Police chief Benson Page explained. "Packages are being cut open and batteries separated, the packaging and the chargers thrown away, which doesn't make much sense," he added.

The men said they bought the $20 TracFones with the intention of re-selling them to a merchant in Texas for $38. This makes perfect sense, as the phones are undoubtedly sold at a loss to be recovered through the subsequent sale of air-time credit - hence the purchase limit of three per customer. And removing the packages makes sense if the original purchase price is visible on them, while removing the chargers is a good idea if one wishes to sell them separately.

But local authorities weren't fooled: they know that this is exactly the sort of "plausible" cover story that hardened terrorists are trained to concoct. Thus Adham Abdelhamid Othman, Louai Abdelhamied Othman, and Maruan Awad Muhareb now face felony charges of collecting material to support terrorist acts and surveillance of a vulnerable target with intent to commit terrorism. Bond is set at $750,000 per suspect, and they remain in jail, essentially for violating Wal-Mart store policy.

Note: See our update of this story here. ®

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