The suspect in the latest New York City terror plot followed a solitary online path to violent radical Islam, family members and law enforcement officials said Monday.
Jose Pimentel, 27, was being held Monday without bail on state terrorism charges following his arrest Saturday after authorities said he plotted, as an al-Qaida sympathizer, to use explosives to attack post offices, police buildings and U.S. military personnel.
Pimentel was arrested because he was about an hour away from making a pipe bomb and using it somewhere in the city, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly said. The suspect pleaded not guilty at his arraignment Sunday.
The suspect's mother, Carmen Sosa, 56, told reporters Monday outside her Manhattan apartment, where her unemployed son has lived for the past year, that he spent his days praying "to Allah, reading the Quran." She was initially skeptical about his conversion from Catholicism four of five years ago. When Sosa pressed her son on why he chose Islam, he told her, " 'It's none of your business,' " she said.
Law enforcement officials labeled him a "lone wolf" who wasn't connected to any al-Qaida affiliate or other terrorist group. "His social network was online," said Mitch Silber, director of intelligence analysis at the NYPD intelligence division.
Silber, who has studied other homegrown radicalization cases, said Pimentel was a constant user of the Internet, where he maintained trueislam1.com.
In a March posting praising Osama bin Laden and the 9/11 attacks, he wrote, "America and its allies are all legitimate targets in warfare. This includes facilities such as army bases, police stations, political facilities, embassies, CIA and FBI buildings, private and public airports, and all kinds of buildings where money is being made."
"This is a classic case of what we've been talking about -- the lone wolf, an individual, self-radicalized," Kelly said.
Silber said that while some people never go beyond radical rhetoric and get on with their lives, Pimentel "unfortunately wasn't walking away from it."
Sosa said she never saw a violent side to her son. But asked if she thought he was capable of doing what he is accused of, she replied, "My son says he did it. If he says he did it . . ." before shrugging her shoulders.
According to the criminal complaint against him, Pimentel said he bought "all of the components of the bomb," took "active steps" to build it and was "about one hour away from completing it."
The complaint charged that he plotted since October with the help of a confidential informant working with the NYPD to make pipe bombs from a recipe published in the radical Inspire Magazine. Pimentel purchased common items like alarm clocks, pipes, Christmas lights and matches at local 99-cent stores and at a Home Depot in the Bronx, the complaint stated.
Defense attorney Joseph Zablocki said that Pimentel, who had a minor criminal record for credit card theft in upstate Schenectady where he lived for a while, wasn't a serious threat.
While the NYPD kept the FBI informed, a person familiar with the investigation said federal officials were unsure about how much of a threat Pimentel posed and how large a role the informant played in moving him to act.
P. Adem Carroll, founder of the Muslim Consultative Network, a nonprofit coalition in Jamaica, Queens, said that although Muslim leaders disapproved of any terrorist plot, they were also skeptical about the case. "We deplore and condemn any such activity, but at the same time feel wariness about this practice of police stings," Carroll said.
With Gary Dymski