College Student In Queens Accused Of Plotting Terror Attack In New York City

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A college student in Queens is accused of planning a terror attack on New York City on behalf of ISIS.

Munther Omar Saleh was arrested on June 7 after allegedly trying to attack investigators who were following him, 1010 WINS’ Sonia Rincon reported.

Federal investigators said Saleh was in a green Jeep and had a knife on him when he was arrested near the Whitestone Bridge, CBS2’s Dave Carlin reported. He allegedly jumped out of the Jeep and stormed toward the undercover police car.

As CBS2’s Jessica Schneider reported, Saleh’s father wouldn’t say much as he arrived at his home Tuesday night. But he defended his son.

“They were setting him up with the informants, and they should know. I’m not going to say nothing else but that,” he said.

Speaking to CBS2’s Schneider earlier in the day off camera, Saleh insisted that his son was just doing simple Internet searches and meant no harm.

“His son is just his son, and I can’t believe that these things can happen to him,” said neighbor Elizabeth Taylor. “It’s really sad.”

Read The Complaint Against Saleh

Saleh recently enrolled at a college in Queens that specializes in aeronautics and was taking a course in electrical circuitry, according to investigators.

According to court documents, the 20-year-old espoused jihadist beliefs online and openly supported ISIS activities via Twitter, including the Charlie Hebdo massacre in France, the burning to death of a Jordanian pilot and the beheading of a Japanese journalist. He also allegedly tweeted support for the terror attack in Garland, Texas in May.

Saleh landed on federal authorities’ radar after allegedly loitering on the George Washington Bridge on two consecutive days in March, Carlin reported. He was spotted by a Port Authority of New York and New Jersey police officer, WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond reported.

A further investigation into Saleh’s activities uncovered possible plans to detonate an explosive device in New York City on behalf of the terror group, court documents said.

Investigators claim he also used his personal computer to search topics ranging from weapons and pressure cookers, to eluding police and disguises.

The specific searches allegedly included, “construction of a pressure cooker bomb,” “firearms,” “ammunition,” “bulletproof vests,” “drones,” and “New York City landmarks and tourist attractions.”

In May, an informant posing as a terrorist sympathizer said he spoke to Saleh, who reportedly said “I’m in NY and I’m trying to do an Op.”

A federal special agent said in court papers that it is believed an “Op” refers to an effort to conduct a terror attack.

Investigators also said Saleh tweeted on Sept. 10, 2014, “i fear AQ could be getting too moderate” — referring to al-Qaeda.

Additionally, Saleh is accused of offering to translate ISIS propaganda into English for dissemination.

One woman who lives near Saleh’s home saw the FBI agents there searching, on Saturday afternoon.

“I saw a group of you know, like, FBI men and women, and they were searching the back of an SUV that was parked in the driveway,” said Maria Sanchez. “Right away you start thinking the worst, like oh, you know, what’s going on? You know, who are they looking for?”

Saleh, who is an American citizen, has been locked up since Saturday and has had no communication with his family, Schneider reported.

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