A 27-year-old Manhattan man has been arrested in New York City for allegedly planning to attack military personnel and other targets in the United States.
Jose Pimentel, arrested on November 19, 2011, planned to target U.S. servicemen returning from abroad, post offices and police targets, according to officials. He is charged with one count of criminal possession of a weapon as a crime of terrorism, two counts of conspiracy and one count of soliciting or providing support for an act of terrorism.
Pimentel, who was under law enforcement surveillance for at least a year, was apparently influenced by terrorist propaganda and attempted to build a type of bomb described in the pages of Inspire, Al Qaeda's English-language magazine which provides detailed bomb-making instructions and calls on followers to "destroy" America. He had come close to completing at least three bombs at the time of his arrest.
The principal author of Inspire, dedicated to reaching and appealing to Western audiences, was Samir Khan, an Al Qaeda propagandist who grew up in Queens, New York. One of the main contributors to the magazine was Anwar al-Awlaki, an American born Muslim cleric who played a significant role in influencing and recruiting American jihadists. In September 2011, both Awlaki and Khan were killed by a drone strike in Yemen.
Pimentel, a naturalized U.S. citizen from the Dominican Republic, apparently admired Awlaki and had attempted to communicate with him via email, but without success. Pimentel "decided to build the bomb in August of this year, but clearly he jacked up his speed after the elimination of al-Awlaki," New York Police Department Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.
Pimentel's arrest demonstrates the continued influence of Awlaki, Inspire and other terrorist propaganda on American extremists motivated by radical interpretations of Islam. One indication of the widespread influence of this material is the number of extremists that have been found in possession of this sort of propoganda at the time of their arrest.
The list includes Naser Jason Abdo, an American citizen arrested in July 2011 for planning an attack against Fort Hood military personnel similar to the one carried out by Nidal Malik Hasan, who exchanged more than a dozen emails with Awlaki.
Abdo was found in possession of an article from Inspire magazine called, "How to Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom." Pimentel allegedly used the same article to guide his bomb making. He purchased components for the bomb, including a clock similar to one pictured in the Inspire article, according to the criminal complaint.
Pimentel, who converted to Islam and was also known as Muhammad Yusuf, talked with a confidential police informant about his plans. He said the public would know that there were mujahedeen in New York ready to fight once he carried out his attack. After his arrest, Pimentel told police that Islamic law requires true Muslims to "wage war" against the U.S. in return for its invasion of Muslim lands.
While no links between Pimentel and Al Qaeda have been established, his online activity demonstrates his extremist views and support for jihad. For example, Pimentel's Facebook account, which is registered under the name Muhammad Yusuf, includes "JIHAD E FISABEELILLAH" (jihad for the sake of Allah) among a list of his activities and interests.
Pimentel made a series of posts to Islam Policy, the Web site and name under which Revolution Muslim - a fringe anti-Semitic Muslim organization that justifies terrorist attacks and other forms of violence - has been operating since November.
The posts Pimentel contributed to Islam Policy included reposts of news stories from mainstream media, as well as posts from more extreme Web sites and blogs such as the Taliban's Web site. He also reposted pieces from his own Web site, including his commentary about alleged atrocities committed by U.S. military personnel and about the Arab Spring, which largely echoes Ayman al-Zawahiri message expressing his hope that the Arab countries institute Shariah law.
His online activity also includes several blogs, a Web site and a YouTube channel.
Pimentel's YouTube channel, which he accessed until the day of his arrest, includes a personal profile in which he expresses support for the mujahedeen and asks "Allah to forgive u and give u victory over the disbelievers." His channel, which has over 1,500 subscribers, hosts at least 55 clips, including 15 of Anwar al-Awlaki. He also posted three videos in which American soldiers recount atrocities allegedly committed by American military forces. The account also features 13 nasheeds (Islamic songs), most of which are dedicated to jihad. In addition, he posted three videos about Aafia Siddiqui.
On YouTube, Pimentel would engage in debates with other users from time to time about his views. In May 2011, he asked one user "why are muslims like you so keen on defending kuffar [infidels] that hate you in private and act like your friends in public and… you want to hate the muslims who protect the Muslim countries." In another exchange at that time, he justified jihad by calling it an obligation "to defend Muslim countries from invasion regardless of what that invading army's reason for invading is. The excuse of fighting terrorism is just another lie to invade Muslim countries."
He also claimed that Muslims do not understand the role of jihad in Islam, claiming that there is only limited textual support for not killing civilians, while there are numerous verses about jihad and stories of battles in which civilians were killed and Muhammad did not rebuke the fighters.
"True Islam" Web Site
In addition to his activity on social networking sites, Pimentel maintained a Web site called, "True Islam." The site contains sidebars featuring materials by prominent terrorists, including former Hamas leader Ahmad Yassin, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama Bin Laden, Abdullah Azzam, Anwar al-Awlaki, whom he dubs "Destroyer of the US," Mullah Omar and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
The Web site consists largely of reposted news stories and interviews and messages from jihadist leaders. He also links to videos showing alleged atrocities committed by American soldiers. Among the PDF files he has available for download are copies of Inspire magazine.
Among the posts he wrote himself is a list of compiled "verses in the Qur'an that command us to fight and kill in the path of Allah." He notes that while jihad has anther meaning besides waging war against "non-Muslims, or hypocrite Muslims," it is used only "rarely."
In another post, Pimentel writes that "America and its allies are all legitimate targets in warfare." He calls on the the U.S. government to warn all civilians living in or working at "all military, political, and financial facilities" about the heightened dangers of living there. Pimentel also claims that Osama Bin Laden cannot be held directly responsible for 9/11 or the Cole bombing because Al Qaeda is such a large organization that he did not have a direct role in organizing or supervising the attacks.
In other posts, Pimentel claims that democracy is incompatible with Islam despite what "many so called liberal or moderate Muslims like to falsely claim."