NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A Staten Island man attacked an FBI agent with the Joint Terrorism Task Force with a knife during a search of his home Wednesday morning, authorities said.
Members of the JTTF were searching Fareed Mumuni’s home when he allegedly attacked.
As CBS2’s Jessica Schneider reported, Mumuni was smiling in a photo taken six years ago when he graduated from a Staten Island education program called Youth Court. But on Wednesday morning, investigators said he “repeatedly attempted to plunge the kitchen knife into the torso of an FBI Special Agent.”
None of the stabs penetrated the agent’s body armor, and he suffered only minor injuries, according to the criminal complaint.
Mumuni, 21, also allegedly tried to grab another agent’s rifle during the incident.
“There was a whole bunch of cops out here. They were sitting here. They were in that house coming in and out; I saw FBI agents,” said neighbor Gilberto Gonzalez.
“It’s just shocking,” said Daniel Perez, “because we play on this block, you know, with little kids and everything.”
Mumuni’s family members would not talk hours later. But his next-door neighbor said the young man was not someone he imagined would pledge allegiance to the Islamic State group.
“I just don’t believe it’s true. He’s a beautiful person; he was a really, really respectful neighbor; helped me all the time; always available,” said Don Dwonkowski. “His demeanor – never; I don’t believe it, I just don’t believe it.”
Mumuni had his home searched as part of the same investigation that resulted in the arrest of a Queens college student accused of planning an attack on New York City landmarks on behalf of ISIS.
Web Extra: Read The Complaint Against Mumuni
Munther Omar Saleh, a 20-year-old college student in Queens, was arrested earlier this week.
According to the complaint against Mumuni, the JTTF was investigating a plot to provide material support to ISIS and that Mumuni and Saleh, along with others, are part of that plot. The identities of the others under investigation, or how many of them there are, were not included in the complaint.
Mumuni allegedly waived his right to remain silent and told investigators that he intended to travel to areas controlled by ISIS to fight, and, failing that, he intended to attack law enforcement officers here, according to the complaint.
Mumuni also told investigators that he kept the knife he used to attack the agent wrapped in a T-shirt in his bed, as well as another knife that was found in his mother’s car, just in case he had an encounter with law enforcement, according to authorities.
Saleh allegedly urged Mumuni to use a bomb to attack members of law enforcement and then to use a car to run over any responders, grabbing their weapons to shoot other victims, according to the complaint.
The criminal complaint against Saleh alleges he has violent jihadist beliefs and is a “fervent supporter” of the Islamic State. In the complaint against Mumuni, it is alleged that Saleh said he was a “full-fledged” member of the Islamic State group.
FRIENDS SAY SALEH’S BEHAVIOR CHANGED
Long time family friend Sherrell Jordan told CBS2’s Marcia Kramer that she noticed a dramatic change in Saleh six months ago and knew something was up.
“I noticed some changes in his appearance,” she said. “About a year ago, he was very friendly and outgoing, but the last six months, he changed his appearance, grew a beard, shaved his head and his demeanor was totally different now, more dogmatic.”
Federal authorities accuse Saleh of preparing an explosive device, possibly a pressure cooker bomb like the one used at the Boston Marathon, to detonate in the New York metropolitan area.
Web Extra: Read The Complaint Against Saleh
But Saleh’s father stands by his son.
“They were setting him up with the informants and they should know,” he told CBS2’s Jessica Schneider. “I’m not going to say anything else but that.”
Port Authority police spotted Saleh in March acting strangely on the New Jersey side of the George Washington Bridge on two consecutive days, authorities said.
The feds said he consented to an interview with the Joint Terrorism Task Force as well as to a search of his computer.
According to court documents, Saleh 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.
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.
DETAILS OF SALEH’S ALLEGED PLOT
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.
Speaking to Schneider earlier in the day off camera, Saleh’s father 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.”
Saleh was arrested Saturday when agents tracked his Jeep near the Whitestone Expressway. Saleh allegedly jumped out of his Jeep and stormed toward the undercover car.
“My son doesn’t even drive,” his father said. “How he drive a car?”
Saleh recently enrolled at a college in Queens that specializes in aeronautics and was taking a course in electrical circuitry, according to investigators.
In his original interview, authorities said Saleh told them he did not sympathize with ISIS.
EXPERT: LATEST ARRESTS REFLECT DISTURBING TREND
The ISIS recruitment numbers are startling, Kramer reported. Fifty westerners join the militant group every day, showing that if nothing else, Islamic State terrorists are winning the media war.
“Through their websites; through the Internet, they have a very, very effective campaign to recruit young people,” said security expert Manny Gomez.
Gomez, a former FBI agent and terror expert, said ISIS is winning converts to its barbaric ways because it is very effective in winning over disaffected teens – and even those not in their teenage years.
“They plug into their sense of belonging to something that a lot of young folks are missing for a myriad of reasons, and they give them this romantic idea that they belong to this higher cause,” Gomez said.
Even videos of the beheadings and of Islamic State warriors overturning towns play into the sense of belonging to a cause, according to Gomez. Thus, he was not surprised to hear of the latest terror plot allegedly involving Saleh and Mumuni.
“A lot of these young people these days feel disenfranchised,” Gomez said. “They see the politics of what’s going on – anti-law enforcement, anti-military overseas. They feel they want to belong to something and help that cause.”
The solution, Gomez said, may be for the American government – even for local law enforcement groups such as the NYPD and the JTTF – to put together their own videos and their own propaganda tools.
“I strongly believe that we should have our own social media and our own Web to indicate to them — to let these young people know – that this is not the way,” Gomez said. “In fact, we should have people who were successfully able to escape from ISIS, and tell them the details of torture; of murder; of rape; of assault.”