via FBI claims New York City student planned ISIS-inspired attack
Federal prosecutors have accused a New York City resident of planning an ISIS-inspired terrorist attack.
Munther Omar Saleh, 20, of Queens, N.Y., was arrested June 7 after undercover federal agents tried to pull over his car near the Whitestone Bridge. Instead of stopping, investigators said Saleh and an unidentified man jumped out of the car and ran toward the agent. Authorities said a knife was found on the man Saleh was with.
According to court documents unsealed Tuesday, Saleh had carried out several online searches about building and detonating various explosive devices, including pressure cooker bombs of the type used in the Boston Marathon bombing.
Saleh had been enrolled in an aeronautics program at Queens College since January and investigators believe that his knowledge of electrical circuitry would have helped him to construct a pressure cooker bomb or other explosive device.
The documents also alleged that Saleh expressed support for ISIS on social media, at one point tweeting in 2014 that he thought Al Qaeda was “too moderate.” Investigators claim Saleh also endorsed specific terrorist actions, like the January Charlie Hebdo massacre in France, the attack on last month’s “Draw Muhammad” cartoon contest in Texas, and the burning and beheading of a Jordanian pilot and a Japanese journalist, respectively, by ISIS.
The documents say Saleh came to the attention of law enforcement this past March 22 after a Port Authority police officer saw him walking near the George Washington Bridge. The documents say Saleh unexpectedly asked the officer if he could ride with him back to New York, a request the officer declined. The same officer spotted Saleh loitering on the bridge the following day, “looking around repeatedly while walking on the bridge.”
Saleh has been charged with conspiring to provide material support and resources to ISIS.
More: FRIENDS SAY SALEH’S BEHAVIOR CHANGED
Long time family friend Sherrell Jordan told CBS2’s Marcia Kramer that she noticed a dramatic change in Saleh six months ago and knew something was up.
“I noticed some changes in his appearance,” she said. “About a year ago, he was very friendly and outgoing, but the last six months, he changed his appearance, grew a beard, shaved his head and his demeanor was totally different now, more dogmatic.”
Federal authorities accuse Saleh of preparing an explosive device, possibly a pressure cooker bomb like the one used at the Boston Marathon, to detonate in the New York metropolitan area.
Port Authority police spotted Saleh in March acting strangely on the New Jersey side of the George Washington Bridge on two consecutive days, authorities said.
The feds said he consented to an interview with the Joint Terrorism Task Force as well as to a search of his computer.
According to court documents, Saleh espoused jihadist beliefs online and openly supported ISIS activities via Twitter, including the Charlie Hebdo massacre in France, the burning to death of a Jordanian pilot and the beheading of a Japanese journalist. He also allegedly tweeted support for the terror attack in Garland, Texas in May.
A further investigation into Saleh’s activities uncovered possible plans to detonate an explosive device in New York City on behalf of the terror group, court documents said.
Investigators claim he also used his personal computer to search topics ranging from weapons and pressure cookers to eluding police and disguises.
The specific searches allegedly included “construction of a pressure cooker bomb,” “firearms,” “ammunition,” “bulletproof vests,” “drones,” and “New York City landmarks and tourist attractions.”
In May, an informant posing as a terrorist sympathizer said he spoke to Saleh, who reportedly said “I’m in NY and I’m trying to do an Op.”
A federal special agent said in court papers that it is believed an “Op” refers to an effort to conduct a terror attack.
Investigators also said Saleh tweeted on Sept. 10, 2014, “i fear AQ could be getting too moderate” — referring to al Qaeda.
Additionally, Saleh is accused of offering to translate ISIS propaganda into English for dissemination.
Speaking to Schneider earlier in the day off camera, Saleh’s father insisted that his son was just doing simple Internet searches and meant no harm.
“His son is just his son and I can’t believe that these things can happen to him,” said neighbor Elizabeth Taylor. “It’s really sad.”
Saleh was arrested Saturday when agents tracked his Jeep near the Whitestone Expressway. Saleh allegedly jumped out of his Jeep and stormed toward the undercover car.
“My son doesn’t even drive,” his father said. “How he drive a car?”
Saleh recently enrolled at a college in Queens that specializes in aeronautics and was taking a course in electrical circuitry, according to investigators.
In his original interview, authorities said Saleh told them he did not sympathize with ISIS.
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