Jose Pimentel, a follower of late Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, was arraigned Sunday night in state court on terrorism-related charges.
A U.S. citizen born in the Dominican Republic, Pimentel was arrested on Saturday in a Manhattan apartment while assembling a bomb, police said.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said police had to move quickly to arrest Pimentel on Saturday because he was ready to carry out his plan.
“We had to act quickly yesterday because he was in fact putting this bomb together. He was drilling holes and it would have been not appropriate for us to let him walk out the door with that bomb,” Kelly said.
Pimentel admitted he “took active steps to build the bomb, including shaving the match heads and drilling holes in the pipes” and was “one hour away from completing it,” said the criminal complaint filed by the Manhattan District Attorney.
“He decided to build the bomb August of this year, but clearly he jacked up his speed after the elimination of al-Awlaki,” Kelly said.
Pimentel, a US citizen originally from the Dominican Republic, was “plotting to bomb police patrol cars and also postal facilities as well as targeted members of our armed services returning from abroad,” Bloomberg said Sunday.
He was under surveillance by New York police for at least a year who were working with a confidential informant and was in the process of building a bomb; no injury to anyone or damage to property is alleged, Commissioner Kelly said.
“There is no evidence he worked with anyone else,” New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg said during a press conference this evening. “He appears to be … a lone wolf.”
Mr Bloomberg said at the news conference that Pimentel represents the type of threat FBI Director Robert Mueller has warned about as US forces erode the ability of terrorists to carry out large scale attacks.
“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.
As a reader of the online magazine “Inspire” published by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Pimentel took instructions from an article “How to Build a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom,” Kelly said.
Pimentel is accused of having an explosive device Saturday when he was arrested that 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.
Kelly said Pimentel “talked about changing his name to Osama Hussein to celebrate his heroes Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.”
He also talked about killing U.S. military personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, the complaint said.
Pimentel first came to the attention of authorities in May 2009, when he was living in Schenectady, N.Y. He returned to New York City in January 2010. Authorities say they have been tailing him for more than a year.
Pimentel rarely left his home, authorities said, except to buy coffee and cigarettes — one cigarette at a time, when he couldn’t afford a pack — and to smoke. His mother did not let him smoke in the apartment.
He also smoked marijuana and drank, according to authorities, and only attended Muslim religious services infrequently.
Since the September 11 attacks by al Qaeda in 2001, New York City has considered itself a prime target and has developed extensive intelligence and counterterrorism divisions that employ 1,000 officers within the police department.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the Pimentel case the 14th plot against the city since 2001. Most of these have been deemed “aspirational.” But some, such as the failed May 2010 attempt to set off a bomb in Times Square, were closer to being carried out. [via Reuters, CNN and ABC]