A Manhattan man, Jose Pimentel, was arrested Saturday on charges that he plotted to construct and detonate pipe bombs in New York City. Pimentel, who was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in the Bronx, was obsessed with the teaching of the deceased American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, and allegedly planned to attack American troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, officials said in an announcement on Sunday.
On the evening of Nov. 21, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. and NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly quickly assembled a press conference at City Hall to announced Pimentel’s arrest. According to Kelly, Pimental, 27, acted alone and was motivated by the recent death of Awlaki, who was killed by a drone attack in Yemen this September, reported the New York Times.
The NYPD had been monitoring Pimentel for two years, according to Kelly, and police made the arrest after the suspect allegedly showed a police informant the parts to build three pipe bombs. Kelly said Pimentel was just an hour away from assembling the bombs.
Bloomberg said Pimentel’s arrest halted the 14th terrorist plot against New York City since Sept. 11, 2011, reported Bloomberg News. Other notable foiled plots include:
- The 2003 arrest of Ohio truck driver Iyman Faris, who planned to detonate a bomb on the Brooklyn Bridge.
- The 2009 arrest of four men who planned to blow up Jewish centers and shoot down airplanes at a National Guard base.
- The 2007 arrest of Russell Defreitas, a JFK cargo handler, who planned to blow up the airport.
The arrest was the second time this year that the NYPD and District Attorney’s office have brought terrorism-related charges — which traditionally have gone through Federal courts — through a State court, reported the New York Times.
However, some observers have questioned the nature of Pimentel’s arrest.
Talking Points Memo founder Josh Marshall reported that the FBI declined to take on the case against Pimentel, and others in the political arena questioned the lack of FBI presence at Sunday’s press conference, reported Capital New York.
In recent years, Kelly has been critical of the federal government’s handling of terrorist cases, and has significantly beefed up the NYPD’s counter-terrorism program, reported the New York Times.
Following Pimentel’s arrest, Republican Congressman Peter King said there is a “growing difference in philosophy” between the FBI and the NYPD, and that it was “not a good sign the FBI wasn’t there” at the press conference, reported Capital New York.
Some members of Occupy Wall Street called the timing of Pimentel’s arrest convenient, since the press conference occurred within days of the group’s controversial eviction from Zuccotti Park and drew the focus away from the movement, reported Capital New York.
Regardless of the timing, the arrest supplied a needed publicity boost for the NYPD and Bloomberg, who have criticized by politicians and New York City residents for their management of several police scandals, including:
- An Associated Press report that revealed the NYPD has been spying on Muslim communities in New York City with the assistance of the FBI.
- A ticket-fixing scandal, in which 16 NYPD officers were indicted in October.
- Ongoing controversy surrounding the NYPD’s use of “stop and frisk” tactics.
- Multiple high-profile incidents in which questionable displays of police power were caught on video, beginning with a pepper spraying incident on Sept. 24, and most recently Bloomberg’s late night eviction of Occupy Wall Street protesters from Zuccotti Park.