Nelson Mandela: A life in pictures
Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
NEW YORK (AP) — An “al-Qaida sympathizer” accused of plotting to bomb police and post offices in New York City as well as U.S. troops returning home remained in police custody after an arraignment on numerous terrorism-related charges.
Jose Pimentel of Manhattan was described by Mayor Michael Bloomberg at a Sunday news conference announcing Pimentel’s arrest as “a 27-year-old al-Qaida sympathizer” who was motivated by terrorist propaganda and resentment of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said police had to move quickly to arrest Pimentel on Saturday because he was ready to carry out his plan.
“He was in fact putting this bomb together,” Kelly said. “He was drilling holes and it would have been not appropriate for us to let him walk out the door with that bomb.”
Ten years after 9/11, New York remains a prime terrorism target. Bloomberg said at least 14 terrorist plots, including the latest alleged scheme, have targeted the city since the Sept. 11 attacks. No attack has been successful, however. Pakistani immigrant Faisal Shahzad is serving a life sentence for trying to detonate a car bomb in Times Square in May 2010.
Kelly said Sunday that Pimentel was energized and motivated to carry out his plan by the Sept. 30 killing of al-Qaida’s U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.
“He decided to build the bomb August of this year, but clearly he jacked up his speed after the elimination of al-Awlaki,” Kelly said.
An unemployed U.S. citizen originally from the Dominican Republic, Pimentel was “plotting to bomb police patrol cars and also postal facilities as well as targeted members of our armed services returning from abroad,” Bloomberg said.
New York police had him under surveillance for at least a year and were working with a confidential informant; no injury to anyone or damage to property is alleged, Kelly said. In addition, authorities have no evidence that Pimentel was working with anyone else, the mayor said.
“He appears to be a total lone wolf,” the mayor said. “He was not part of a larger conspiracy emanating from abroad.”
At Pimentel’s arraignment, his lawyer Joseph Zablocki said his client’s behavior leading up to the arrest was not that of a conspirator trying to conceal some violent scheme. 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,” 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 custody. The bearded, bespectacled man wore a black T-shirt and black drawstring pants and smiled at times during the proceeding. His mother and brother attended the arraignment, Zablocki said.
Pimentel is accused of having an explosive device Saturday when he was arrested, one he planned to use against others and property to terrorize the public. 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.
Bloomberg said at the news conference that Pimentel represents the type of threat FBI Director Robert Mueller has warned about as U.S. forces erode the ability of terrorists to carry out large scale attacks.
“This is just another example of New York City because we are an iconic city … this is a city that people would want to take away our freedoms gravitate to and focus on,” Bloomberg said.
Kelly said a confidential informant had numerous conversations with Pimentel on Sept. 7 in which he expressed interest in building small bombs and targeting banks, government and police buildings.
Pimentel also posted on his website trueislam1.com and on blogs his support of al-Qaida and belief in jihad, and promoted an online magazine article that described in detail how to make a bomb, Kelly said.
Among his Internet postings, the commissioner said, was an article that states: “People have to understand that America and its allies are all legitimate targets in warfare.”
The New York Police Department’s Intelligence Division was involved in the arrest. Kelly said Pimentel spent most of his years in Manhattan and lived about five years in Schenectady. He said police in the Albany area tipped New York City police off to Pimentel’s activities.
Asked why federal authorities were not involved in the case, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said there was communication with them but his office felt that given the timeline “it was appropriate to proceed under state charges.”
About 1,000 of the city’s roughly 35,000 officers are assigned each day to counterterrorism operations. The NYPD also sends officers overseas to report on how other cities deal with terrorism. Through federal grants and city funding, the NYPD has spent millions of dollars on technology to outfit the department with the latest tools — from portable radiation detectors to the network of hundreds of cameras that can track suspicious activity.
Alexis Smith, 22, who lives in an apartment in the same building as Pimentel, said she was shocked that he was a suspect in a terrorist plot. “He was always very courteous to us,” she said, adding that Pimentel helped her carry groceries and luggage into the building.
“It’s nice to know he was only working alone,” she said.
Associated Press writers Jennifer Peltz and Colleen Long and AP video journalist David R. Martin contributed to this report from New York. AP writer Samantha Gross also contributed to this report.
Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
Mandela is accompanied by his former wife Winnie, moments after his release from prison February 11, 1990 after serving 27 years in jail. (Reuters)
In this February, 1990 photo, shortly after his release from 27 years in prison, Nelson Mandela, gives the black power salute to the 120,000 supporters packing Soccer City stadium in Soweto, near Johannesburg. (AP Photo)
Nelson Mandela showed his passport in February 19, 1990, shortly after his release from prison. The South African government authorized an application for himself and his wife Winnie - (Juda Ngwenya / Reuters)
In this July 27, 1991 photo, Cuban President Fidel Castro, and Nelson Mandela gesture during the celebration of the "Day of the Revolution" in Matanzas, Cuba. (AP Photo)
In this July 4, 1993 photo, President Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela listen during Fourth of July ceremonies in Philadelphia during which Clinton presented the Philadelphia Liberty Medal to the African National Congress president and South African President F.W. de Klerk. (AP Photo/Greg Gibson)
President of the African National Congress Nelson Mandela acknowledges cheers from the crowd as he prepares to unveil the ANC's official election platform in 1994. (AP Photo/David Brauchli)
African National Congress (ANC) leader Nelson Mandela greeted residents of Mmabatho in March 1994, during a visit after the nominal homeland came under South African control following the ousting of the former President Lucas Mangope. (Reuters/Howard Burditt)
South African President Nelson Mandela smiles with actor Sidney Poitier at a press conference in Cape Town in 1996. Poitier played Mandela in the film "One Man, One Vote" (AP Photo / Sasa Kralj)
South African President Nelson Mandela waves to crowds as he sits next to Queen Elizabeth II in a an open carriage on the way to Buckingham Palace.(AP/Louisa Buller)
Chairman of the Constitutional Assembly Cyril Ramaphosa, left, holds up a copy of the country's constitution which was signed by President Nelson Mandela, in December 1996. (AP Photo / Adil Bradlow / POOL)
Nelson Mandela at a news conference in Johannesburg in February 2000. (AP Photo / Denis Farrell)
South African rugby captain Francois Pienaar, right, received the Rugby World Cup trophy from President Nelson Mandela also wearing a South African rugby shirt, after South Africa defeated New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup , in 1995. (AP Photo / Ross Setford)