The NYPD announced on Sunday night that they arrested a 27-year-old American citizen who they say was planning to attack government and military targets with homemade pipe bombs. Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said in nighttime press conference that the man had gathered the bomb making components and was in the process of assembling them when they made the arrest.
Jose Pimentel — who was born in the Dominican Republic, but is a naturalized U.S. citizen and lived in New York for most of his life — was a convert to Islam and also goes by the name Muhammad Yusuf. He is said to be an admirer of Anwar al-Awlaki, the American born cleric who was killed in an American drone attack in Yemen in September. According to Kelly, Pimentel had talked of going to Yemen to train to "become a martyr." He also maintained a website that discussed Islam and jihad.
Authorities say he was a "lone wolf" who was not associated with any conspiracy or terrorist group, but that he planned to use his bombs against post offices, police stations, and had talked about killing military veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
One aspect of the case that seems to be raising questions is that New York officials acted without the help of federal authorities, arresting Pimentel themselves and charging him with state crimes. The NYPD had Pimental under surveillance for two years, but say they moved ahead without the Justice Department or the FBI, because the case came together so quickly at the end. However, some sources says the FBI refused to join the investigation because they had problems with the case. Concerns have also been raised in recent months about the the NYPD's anti-terrorism surveillance programs that reach far beyond the city limits.
New York officials claim this is the 14th terrorist plot against the city that's been thwarted since September 2001.