A Queens aeronautics student has been charged in federal court in Brooklyn with conspiring to provide material support to the Islamic State terror group in a plot that included an effort to construct a bomb for detonation in the New York area, according to a complaint released Tuesday.
Munther Omar Saleh, 20, was observed twice in March behaving suspiciously at the George Washington Bridge, indicated support for the group in online postings, researched bomb-making and referred to being involved in an "op" in email correspondence, the government said. In college this year, he began studying electrical circuitry, which can be key in bomb making, federal authorities said.
When a Port Authority officer spotted Saleh on the bridge for the second time in March, it gave authorities the chance to question him and search his computer with his consent, the complaint said. His computer stored an ISIS video and other documents with the word "translation," confirming his tweets about translating ISIS propaganda into English, though he denied doing such work, the complaint said.
In May and early this month, Saleh searched online for bomb-making materials; notable New York City landmarks and tourist attractions; a map of surveillance cameras; chemical masks; weapons and remote-controlled helicopters and drones, federal officials said.
He was working with two unnamed co-conspirators, according to the complaint, and early Saturday, the three practiced "anti-surveillance" maneuvers in their Jeep Cherokee, including driving with lights off, the complaint said.
Just off the Whitestone Expressway about 4 a.m. that day, the Jeep was at a red light when Saleh and a co-conspirator ran toward the vehicle tailing them, federal officials said. The undercover driver reversed the vehicle to avoid an attack, the complaint said.
After the arrests of Saleh and one co-conspirator there, court papers said, the two told authorities they knew for days that several undercover vehicles had been following them.