A New York man, inspired by late al Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, was just an hour away from finishing construction on a bomb meant to assassinate U.S. servicemen returning from war and policemen when he was arrested, investigators said.
Jose Pimentel, 27, of Washington Heights was granted no bail after he appeared in court late Sunday as details emerged about how investigators say Pimentel became a self-radicalized jihadist.
Pimentel spent much of his time on the internet, according to sources, and maintained a radical website called TrueIslam1. The website allegedly maintained by Pimentel features videos and articles justifying attacks on U.S. army bases, police stations and any building "where money is being made to help fund the war," investigators said.
"Before returning to Washington Heights last year, he lived in Schenectady [in New York] for about five years where he made even some like-minded friends nervous by his extremism," NYPD police commissioner Ray Kelly said Sunday. "He talked about changing his name to Osama Hussein to celebrate his heroes Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein."
Using instructions from an infamous article called "How to Build a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom" from the al Qaeda-produced magazine Inspire -- which was linked on his website -- Pimentel planned to use common household items to construct three bombs, investigators said. Later, he planned to attach nails to the explosives to use as deadly shrapnel, Kelly said.
"We had to act quickly," Kelly said, "because he was in fact putting this bomb together."
Kelly said that Pimentel had sped up his timetable because of Awlaki's death in a U.S. airstrike on Sept. 30. Pimentel had a picture of Awlaki on his blog, along with comments praising Osama bin Laden.
The NYPD was able to videotape Pimentel building pipe bombs in an informant's apartment on Saturday. Police arrested him in the apartment on the same day.
An American citizen, Pimentel was born in the Dominican Republic and came to the United States at age eight. After converting to Islam, he went by the name Muhammed Yusef. New York City Mayor Bloomberg said he did not appear to have any connection with any foreign terrorists or local radical groups.
"The suspect was a so-called lone wolf, motivated by his own resentment of the presence of American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as inspired by al Qaeda propaganda," Bloomberg said. "He was not part of a larger conspiracy."
A duplicate of the bomb Pimentel was allegedly building was detonated by police on a police range and blew apart a car. Charges against Pimentel include criminal possession of a weapon and conspiracy in the fourth degree as a crime of terrorism.
Pimentel first came to the attention of authorities in May 2009 and authorities say they have been tailing him for more than a year.
Pimentel rarely left his home, authorities said, except to buy coffee and cigarettes -- one cigarette at a time, when he couldn't afford a pack -- and to smoke. His mother did not let him smoke in the apartment.
He also smoked marijuana and drank, according to authorities, and only attended Muslim religious services infrequently.
He has a prior arrest for criminal possession of stolen property in Schenectady, New York, in 2005.