New York City authorities announced Sunday they had arrested a Dominican-born American on charges of plotting to bomb targets in New York City. Jose Pimentel, 27, a convert to Islam reportedly inspired by al-Qaida and its English-language propaganda magazine, was a "total lone wolf," according to the officials who apprehended him.
Pimentel apparently came up on the radar of the NYPD some two years ago--initially in large part due to postings on his blog, trueislam1, in praise of Osama bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaki, the al-Qaida leader and Yemeni propagandist killed in recent U.S. counterterrorism operations. Other more recent evidence cited in the complaint against him reportedly involved a New York City police confidential informant.
Pimentel "praised Osama bin Laden in posts on his blog," the New York Times' James Baron and Joseph Goldstein wrote Monday. He "posted a photograph of Anwar al-Awlaki . . . and cited articles from Inspire, Al Qaeda's online magazine."
Indeed, Pimentel was apparently acting under the counsel of one Inspire magazine article entitled 'Make a bomb in the kitchen of your mother" when Pimentel went to "'a 99-cent store in Manhattan' where he bought an alarm clock 'similar to the clock pictured'" in the magazine, Goldstein and Baron wrote, citing quotes from the complaint against Pimentel. Police were already tracking his movements by that point, they note, and were also "on his trail a few days later when he went to the Home Depot in the Bronx to buy two other items mentioned in the Inspire article: pipe and Christmas lights."
When he was arrested Saturday, Pimentel "had come close to completing at least three bombs," Goldstein and Baron wrote, adding that authorities said they believed he planned to initially test the bombs "by detonating mailboxes before going on a bombing campaign around the city."
But if Pimentel harbored aspirations to carry out violent jihad, it's not clear that his abilities were all that refined. Nor do authorities seem to agree that he posed much of a terror threat.
While Pimentel "spoke about traveling to Yemen for training" in jihad, Baron and Goldstein write, he never in fact went to the country. Similarly, they note, even though Pimentel emailed the late al-Qaida Yemen branch propagandist Awlaki "in an attempt to open a line of communication," Awlaki "did not respond."
Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported that federal authorities rebuffed New York police entreaties to pursue a terrorism case against Pimenetal, believing he was not capable of pulling off such a plot, leaving New York authorities to pursue the case on their own.
"New York Police Department investigators sought to get the FBI involved at least twice as their undercover investigation of Jose Pimentel unfolded," the AP reported, citing unnamed law enforcement officials. "Both times, the FBI concluded that he wasn't a serious threat, they said.
"The FBI concluded that . . . Pimentel 'didn't have the predisposition or the ability to do anything on his own,' one of the officials told the AP.
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