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US man gets life in prison for plotting IS attack

21-year-old North Carolina man wanted to target a concert, bar or club to kill as many as 1,000 people, according to prosecutors
Justin Sullivan had conspired with an IS recruiter, US government says (Reuters)

A North Carolina man was sentenced to life in prison on Tuesday for plotting mass shootings in the name of the Islamic State (IS) group, US prosecutors said.

Justin Sullivan, 21, of Morganton, was sentenced in federal court in Asheville on one count of attempting to commit an act of terrorism transcending national boundaries, the Justice Department said in a statement.

Sullivan had pleaded guilty in November 2016, and the agreement with prosecutors called for the life sentence.

At his trial, a psychologist testified that Sullivan suffers from psychological problems that could spiral into full-fledged schizophrenia if he does not receive adequate prison treatment or is housed with hardened inmates.

Prosecutors said Sullivan conspired with Junaid Hussain, a British hacker who was an online recruiter of people to carry out attacks on behalf of IS. Hussain was killed by a US air strike in Syria in 2015.

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IS has carried out or inspired attacks in the United States, Europe and elsewhere.

Sullivan had discussed his plot online with an undercover federal agent, making plans to buy a semi-automatic rifle at a gun show and discussing potential targets.

He said he would use the rifle at a concert, bar or club in an effort to kill as many as 1,000 people, the Justice Department statement said.

At Sullivan's request, the undercover agent sent a homemade silencer to his home.

Sullivan's mother opened the package. When his parents questioned him about the silencer, Sullivan offered to pay the agent to kill them so they would not interfere with his plans, the statement said. He was arrested in June 2015.

At the sentencing hearing, US District Judge Martin Reidinger likened Sullivan's plan to the deadly nightclub attack in Orlando in 2016. But he said his plot to use a silencer to kill as many people as possible made it even more sinister, prosecutors said in their statement.

Sullivan told the judge he was not “a cold-blooded killer,” the Charlotte Observer newspaper reported.

Sullivan also faces a murder charge in state court in the 2014 death of his neighbour, John Bailey Clark. Prosecutors, who plan to seek the death penalty in that case, have said Sullivan told investigators he stole his father's rifle for use in that crime.