CHICAGO (STMW) — The feds won’t say which downtown bar a suburban teen wanted to blow up Friday night — but Mike Feirstein is convinced it was his.
Feirstein, whose family owns Cal’s Bar and Liquors at 400 S. Wells, said there were about 20 people inside when the car bomb was allegedly supposed to go off.
Dozens more were in a neighboring bar. Both sit just outside the southwest corner of the Loop, only yards from the elevated CTA tracks.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Steve Miller reports
Feirstein and his co-workers said they didn’t see Adel Daoud, the man federal authorities allege was the bomber intent on engaging in violent jihad.
The long-, curly-haired Daoud, wearing shackles and the orange jumpsuit of a federal prisoner, made a court appearance Monday, but a hearing was postponed until 3 p.m. Thursday because his defense attorney had only just gotten the case.
The crew at Cal’s say they saw enough Friday night to know their bar was Daoud’s alleged target.
Approximately 15 undercover agents wearing earpieces surrounded the bar around 8 p.m., said Chris Meadows, a Cal’s bartender.
They were surrounding a Jeep Cherokee parked outside. A tarp was draped over the back of the SUV, covering the tailgate area, he said.
When revealing charges against the 18-year-old Daoud of west suburban Hillside, federal authorities said he pressed a button that he thought would detonate a bomb-laden Jeep Cherokee outside a downtown bar in an alleged Islamicist plot. The bomb in the back was a fake, built by the FBI, however, prosecutors said.
“We assumed that they were Chicago cops,” Feirstein said of the swarm of plainclothes investigators.
Meadows added, “I was smoking a cigarette outside and looking at the Jeep when they told me that I was interfering with police business and asked me to leave the scene — I thought they were doing a regular sting on underage drinkers.”
The agents, who were also recovering evidence from a parking lot nearby at Franklin and Van Buren, didn’t tell Cal’s staff what they were doing, Feirstein, 52, said.
But after reading about the alleged terror plot and how it had targeted a downtown bar, liquor store and music venue with a Jeep Cherokee, Meadows said “there’s no question in my mind that we were the target.”
Feirstein also said he “tied it all together” after reading the federal complaint against Daoud Saturday.
The complaint says Daoud wrote in an email that he’d picked his target because “It’s a bar, it’s a liquor store, it’s a concert. All in one bundle.”
Cal’s has a bar and a liquor store and was hosting performances by two local bands Friday night. It is also next door to another bar, Cactus, where drinkers were sitting outside Friday night.
According to the complaint, Daoud selected his target because alcohol was being served, which is against the Muslim religion, and because many people would be there. The target would be filled with “the evilest people . . . all the kuffars are there,” he allegedly wrote.
Feirstein, whose family has owned the venue for 47 years, laughed at that. “The evilest of the evil?” he said. “He’s maybe the most ignorant of the ignorant.”
He speculated that the bar’s Jewish ownership may also have figured in the apparent decision to target it.
Cal’s — just a stone’s throw from the federal courtroom where Daoud is due to appear Monday — “was in a lull between the after work crowd and the bands that played later,” he added.
Kate Stone, 23, a drummer in the all-female metal band “Violet Kill,” played at Cal’s later Friday night. She was shocked to learn she may have been among the targets. “I don’t understand how you could hate people you know nothing about,” she said.
“It’s a small venue and it was packed — if it had really happened it would have been awful.”
Meadows agreed, noting that Cal’s is underneath L tracks and across the street from a fire station. “We’re at the center of a lot of things,” he said.
Daoud, who had been the target of an undercover investigation for months after allegedly becoming radicalized on the Internet, worshipped at the Islamic Foundation mosque in Villa Park and graduated from the school attached to the mosque, the mosque’s Vice Chairman Arshad Zaheer said Sunday.
According to the criminal complaint, Daoud claimed he had recently clashed with his imam over his beliefs. His imam had “yelled” at him and told him to stop discussing violent jihad at the mosque, the complaint states. A second imam also tried to convince him violent jihad was wrong, the complaint states.
Zaheer said Daoud had been “brainwashed” and misled. But the imam who’d challenged him, Shaykh Abdool Rahman Kahn, recently left the mosque, he said.
Daoud’s family on Saturday insisted he isn’t violent and cast doubt on the allegations. And at least one worshipper at the mosque said he finds it laughable that Daoud posed a security threat.
“He was intellectually challenged and he seemed a lot younger than 18,” said Junaid Ahmed, 36. “He was told to stop talking about that garbage.”
In federal court Monday, Daoud’s defense attorney, Thomas Durkin, characterized him as an immature 18-year-old. He said his client effectively had been set up by the FBI.
“I’ve read the complaint. It looks pretty ridiculous to me,” Durkin told reporters. “I’m pretty suspicious of these allegations, and I need a lot of time to investigate.”
(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2012. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)