AN alleged al-Qaeda sympathiser accused of plotting to kill government workers and returning US troops has been charged with terrorism offences in New York.
Jose Pimentel, 27, a US citizen originally from the Dominican Republic, had been "plotting to bomb police patrol cars and also postal facilities as well as targeted members of our armed services returning from abroad", New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.
Mr Bloomberg described Pimentel, from Manhattan as "a 27-year-old al-Qaeda sympathiser" who was motivated by terrorist propaganda and resentment of US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The mayor said Pimentel was a "lone wolf" without affiliation to foreign terrorist organisations, but the city's police commissioner Raymond Kelly said Pimentel was a follower of slain al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.
"He appears to be a total lone wolf," Mr Bloomberg said.
"He was not part of a larger conspiracy emanating from abroad."
Mr Kelly said police had to move quickly to arrest Pimentel on Saturday because he was ready to carry out his plan.
"We had to act quickly yesterday because he was in fact putting this bomb together. He was drilling holes and it would have been not appropriate for us to let him walk out the door with that bomb," Kelly said.
The police commissioner said Pimentel was energised and motivated to carry out his plan by the September 30 killing of Awlaki - a US-born cleric suspected of involvement in several attacks on the United States and of recruiting Americans for his cause - in a US air strike in Yemen.
"He decided to build the bomb August of this year, but clearly he jacked up his speed after the elimination of al-Awlaki," Mr Kelly said.
The charges accuse him of conspiracy going back at least to October 2010, and include first-degree criminal possession of a weapon as a crime of terrorism, and soliciting support for a terrorist act.
No injury to anyone or damage to property was alleged, Mr Kelly said.
At Pimentel's arraignment, his lawyer Joseph Zablocki said Pimentel was public about his activities and was not trying to hide anything.
"I don't believe that this case is nearly as strong as the people believe," Mr Zablocki said.
"He (Pimentel) has this very public online profile... This is not the way you go about committing a terrorist attack."
Pimentel, also known as Muhammad Yusuf, was denied bail and remained in police custody.
The bearded, bespectacled man wore a black T-shirt and black drawstring pants and smiled at times during the proceeding.
Pimentel was under surveillance for at least a year by New York City police who were working with a confidential informant and was allegedly in the process of building a bomb.
Mr Kelly, who said Pimentel made three bombs, said the informant had numerous conversations with Pimentel on September 7 in which he expressed interest in building small bombs and targeting banks, government and police buildings.
Pimentel "planned to test the effectiveness of the bombs by planting them in mailboxes and detonating them", Mr Kelly told reporters.
Once beginning his bombing campaign, Mr Kelly said that Pimentel hoped the US public "would know that there were mujahideen in the city."
Authorities said they had built a duplicate of Pimentel's alleged device, detonating it at a secure location.
At the media event announcing the charges, officials showed reporters a video of the device apparently blowing apart a small car.
Pimentel also posted on his website trueislam1.com and on blogs his support of al-Qaeda and belief in jihad, and promoted an online magazine article that described in detail how to make a bomb, Kelly said.
Mr Bloomberg said that case marked at least the 14th terrorist plot targeting New York City since the September 11 terrorist attacks 10 years ago.
In another high-profile, home-grown New York terror plot, Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistani immigrant, was caught soon after his explosive device failed to detonate in busy Times Square on May 1, 2010.
He pleaded guilty and said he was aiming to avenge deaths from US missiles fired from drones operating over Pakistan.
He was sentenced to life behind bars.
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