A US citizen and al-Qaida sympathiser accused of plotting to bomb police and post offices in New York remained in custody today on terrorism-related charges.
Jose Pimentel, 27, of Manhattan was described by Mayor Michael Bloomberg as being motivated by terrorist propaganda and resentment of US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said police had to move quickly to arrest Pimentel on Saturday because he was ready to carry out his plan.
“He was in fact putting this bomb together,” Mr Kelly said. “He was drilling holes and it would have been not appropriate for us to let him walk out the door with that bomb.”
Manhattan assistant district attorney Brian Fields said Pimentel, a convert to Islam, “was approximately one hour from completing these explosive devices.”
Ten years after 9/11, New York remains a prime terrorism target. Mr Bloomberg said at least 14 terrorist plots, including the latest alleged scheme, have targeted the city since the September 11 attacks. No attack has been successful, however. Pakistani immigrant Faisal Shahzad is serving a life sentence for trying to detonate a car bomb in Times Square in May 2010.
Mr Kelly said that Pimentel was energised and motivated to carry out his plan by the September 30 killing of al-Qaida’s US-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.
Originally from the Dominican Republic, jobless Pimentel was “plotting to bomb police patrol cars and also postal facilities as well as targeted members of our armed services returning from abroad,” Mr Bloomberg said.
New York police had him under surveillance for at least a year and were working with a confidential informant; no injury to anyone or damage to property is alleged, Mr Kelly said. In addition, authorities have no evidence that Pimentel was working with anyone else, the mayor said.
“He appears to be a total lone wolf,” the mayor said. “He was not part of a larger conspiracy emanating from abroad.”
Pimentel’s lawyer Joseph Zablocki said his client’s behaviour leading up to the arrest was not that of a conspirator trying to conceal some violent scheme. Mr Zablocki said Pimentel was public about his activities and was not trying to hide anything.
“I don’t believe that this case is nearly as strong as the people believe,” Mr Zablocki said. “He (Pimentel) has this very public online profile. ... This is not the way you go about committing a terrorist attack.”
Pimentel, also known as Muhammad Yusuf, was denied bail and remained in custody. The bearded, bespectacled man wore a black T-shirt and black drawstring pants and smiled at times during the proceeding. His mother and brother attended the arraignment, Zablocki said.
Pimentel is accused of having an explosive device on Saturday when he was arrested, one he planned to use against others and property to terrorise the public. The charges accuse him of conspiracy going back at least to October 2010, and include first-degree criminal possession of a weapon as a crime of terrorism, and soliciting support for a terrorist act.
Pimentel also posted on his website trueislam1.com and on blogs his support of al -Qaida and belief in jihad, and promoted an online magazine article that described in detail how to make a bomb.