Authorities have arrested a man they called a "lone wolf" al-Qaida sympathizer and charged him with building bombs in his upper Manhattan apartment to attack post offices, police patrol cars and U.S. military personnel returning from abroad.
The man was identified as Jose Pimentel, 27, of Hamilton Heights, who was inspired by Islamic militant Anwar al-Awlaki, a Yemeni-American cleric who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen in September, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said in a news conference at City Hall Sunday night. He was ordered held without bail at his arraignment.
"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," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at the news conference, which was also attended by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. "He was not part of a larger conspiracy emanating from abroad."
Kelly said Pimentel, a native of the Dominican Republic, a U.S. citizen and convert to Islam, came to the attention of authorities more than two years ago when he was living in Schenectady. Kelly said Pimentel was vocal in his support of violence and spoke of changing his name to Osama Hussein, in honor of his heroes Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.
Authorities displayed equipment that they said Pimentel purchased from Home Depot and other stores to make his bombs. They included elbow pipes, clocks and wiring. In all, he was assembling three devices, they said. Police also built a duplicate of the explosive device Pimentel was allegedly planning to detonate. Bloomberg showed a video taken of a car exploding as part of the police test.
Pimentel was arrested at an apartment on Saturday about 3:30 p.m. as he prepared to leave with one of his devices, Kelly said. In addition to patrol cars and post offices in and around Washington Heights, Pimentel had spoken of bombing a Bayonne, N.J., police station, Kelly said.
Police had surveillance video of him scraping match heads and gathering the incendiary powder, creating an ignition device using a Christmas tree light and drilling holes in the pipe elbows, according to charging documents in the case.
Kelly said Pimentel planned to equip his devices with nails to maximize the damage they could do.
Pimentel was unemployed and lived most of his life in New York City, Kelly said. He returned to the city last year after living for five years in Schenectady.
According to the charging documents, an NYPD investigator and fellow officers tracked Pimentel's developing plans for an attack over the past 12 months. The documents reveal that they made extensive use of a confidential informant.
Pimentel maintained a website called trueislam1.com, which includes a link to an article in Inspire, a magazine that "is disseminated by al-Qaida with the specific goal of inspiring radical Muslims throughout the world to engage in acts of violence against the West." The Inspire article is titled, "Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom."
On his website, Pimentel posted warnings to America, including "Being that Al Qaida is at war with the U.S., this puts all military, political, and financial facilities that benefit the U.S. in danger."
In the documents, the investigator details multiple recordings of Pimentel speaking with the confidential informant about his plans, as well as videotapes of him assembling the bombs as the Inspire article instructs.
Though there was communication with federal authorities about Pimentel, he was charged under state law with first-degree criminal possession of a weapon as a crime of terrorism, and fourth-degree conspiracy as a crime of terrorism, a related charge.
Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said Pimentel's arrest illustrated several trends, including the targeting of returning military personnel, which will be the subject of a joint committee hearing next month. "It drives home how this threat is morphing and expanding," said King.
With Emily C. Dooley