NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — An alleged “lone wolf” terror suspect who wanted to cause mayhem in New York City has been arrested, officials said Sunday.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said 27-year-old Jose Pimentel was taken into custody Saturday.
Pimentel allegedly wanted to use pipe bombs to blow up police cars and post offices. He faces terror charges of weapons possession, conspiracy, and soliciting or providing support for an act of terror.
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Pimentel, also known as Muhammad Yusuf, allegedly was inspired by al-Qaida. He is a U.S. citizen originally from the Dominican Republic.
LINK: Jose Pimentel complaint
“The suspect was a so-called ‘lone wolf’ motivated by his own resentment of the presence of American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as inspired by al-Qaida propaganda. He was not part of a larger conspiracy emanating from abroad,” Bloomberg said. “He represents exactly the kind of threat FBI Directer Robert Muller and his experts have warned about, as American military and intelligence agencies have eroded al-Qaida’s ability to launch large-scale attacks.”
“The FBI said our number one problem in this country is the guy who comes out of the woodwork, someone who’s not part of a large conspiracy, somebody who doesn’t come from Al Qaeda, or from the middle east, but somebody who grew up right here in the U.S.,” said counterterrorism expert Bob Strang.
“Over two years ago, the New York City Police Department became aware of a follower of the radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. The follower, then residing in Schenectady, New York, was talking about traveling to Yemen for training before returning to New York to become a martyr in the name of Jihad. That was Jose Pimentel, an unemployed native of the Dominican Republic, and convert of Islam, who lived most of his life in Manhattan,” Kelly said.
“Before returning to Washington Heights last year, he lived in Schenectady for about five years, where he made even some of his like-minded friends nervous by his extremism. He talked about changing his name to Osama Hussein, to celebrate his heroes Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein,” he added.
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Law enforcement had possession of the original pipe bomb that they said the suspect built. To demonstrate the power of the bomb, they made a duplicate of it and set it off, destroying a four-door car.
Video of the demonstration was shown at Sunday evening’s press conference with Bloomberg, Kelly, and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance.
“Pimentel talked about killing U.S. servicemen returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, particularly U.S. Army and Marine Corps personnel. He talked about bombing post offices in and around Washington Heights, and police cars in New York City, as well as a police station in Bayonne, New Jersey,” NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly said.
Police say Pimentel, since October 2010, maintained a jihadist website. The website contains posts on topics like “Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom’s Home,” “The Prepatory Manual of Explosives,” and “The RPG System” to name a few.
Police say at least one post was from an online magazine called “Inspire,” which is “created and disseminated by Al Qaeda with the specific goal of inspiring radical Muslims throughout the world to engage in acts of violence against the West.”
“As in other terrorist cases, Pimentel’s behavior morphed from simply talking about such acts, to action, namely bomb building. Pimentel followed instructions from Anwar al-Awlaki’s “Inspire” magazine, to first acquire the bombmaking materials, then assemble them,” Kelly said.
“Pimentel acquired the readily-available ingredients from Home Depot and other stores, being careful not to make all of these purchases from any one location at the same time. He wanted to avoid raising red flags,” Kelly said.
By all accounts, Pimentel is a loner. At his family’s home on West 137th Street, where he allegedly labored on the explosive devices, his uncle, Luis Severino, said Pimentel slept during the day, and the two had very little contac t, even though they lived under the same roof.
Severino told CBS 2’s Dave Carlin that Pimentel was not a problem, but over time seemed more and more interested in his newfound Muslim faith.
Others who knew Pimentel say they saw none of his religious conviction, just an unemployed loner who spent time on the corner outside, ever since moving back to the area recently after spending about five years upstate in Schenectady with an estranged wife.
“I saw him like everyday. I saw him in that corner over there. He’d say ‘Hey what’s up? How you doing?’ Like that, he say he don’t have a job,” said neighbor Rudy Marrero.
Neighbors were unnerved when they learned that police cars, mailboxes, government offices and more were allegedly targeted for destruction, as well as the bomb making allegedly taking place where they live.
“This building is very quiet, actually. You don’t hear anything strange. You don’t see anything strange,” neighbor Luciana Xavier said.
“Very scary cause I have kids. Imagine something happen here, so very scary. Very scary,” said neighbor Alice Vasconcelos.
Governor Andrew Cuomo issued this statement Sunday: “The arrest tonight of an individual suspected of planning to commit a terrorist act in New York demonstrates once again the effectiveness and bravery of our men and women in law enforcement. As families across our state gather this holiday season, we will continue to remain in close contact with our federal and local law enforcement partners to ensure the safety of all New Yorkers.”
“This case is also reminiscent of another “lone-wolf” plot in 2004, in which two New Yorkers, angry over the treatment of prisoners in Iraq plotted to bomb the Herald Square subway station. Like the current case, the Herald Square plot was uncovered by the NYPD Intelligence Division. And as with still another case earlier this year in which a lone wolf plotted to attack a large synagogue, the NYPD teamed up with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office to prosecute Pimentel under state terrorism-related statutes,” Bloomberg said.
“Whether launched by lone wolves, al-Qaida or al-Qaida affiliates, there have been at least 13 previous terror attacks since 9/11 targeting New York City. This would be the 14th,” Bloomberg said.
“This is just another example of New York City, because we are an iconic city … this is a city that people would want to take away our freedoms gravitate to and focus on,” Bloomberg said.
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