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New York Man Accused Of Plotting To Explode Pressure Cooker Bombs

U.S. authorities arrested a 20-year-old Queens man over the weekend suspected of plotting to detonate a pressure cooker bomb in New York to show his devotion to the self-proclaimed Islamic State, or ISIS.

Munther Omar Saleh was studying aeronautics at Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology in Queens, authorities say. According to a criminal complaint just released, authorities say that since January, Saleh had started to post pro-ISIS messages on Twitter and other social media outlets.

Officials say he posted tweets that, among other things, suggested that al-Qaida was "too moderate" and he started championing the violent immolation death of a Jordanian pilot at the hands of ISIS fighters in Syria earlier this year. Officials also say that Saleh told a confidential informant introduced into the case in May, that he was "trying to do an op" in New York.

It was Saleh's tweets supporting ISIS that initially got the attention of authorities, the criminal complaint says. Then in March, he was spotted by police on the New Jersey side of the George Washington Bridge carrying a lantern. Police questioned him and then let him go.

Several months later he emailed himself information on how to construct a pressure cooker bomb like the kind used in the Boston Marathon bombings two years ago. The complaint also alleges that he searched for terms like "watch," "casio," and "vacuum," which authorities said were components needed for an explosive device.

Saleh was arrested with an unnamed co-conspirator after what authorities said was an attempted attack on police officers who had been following him in a cruiser. The complaint says that Saleh and the unnamed co-conspirator stopped their car and approached the policemen in a way the officers found threatening. The pair were arrested a short time later and police say the co-conspirator had a military-style knife in his waistband.

An alleged ISIS follower was killed by police in a Boston suburb June 2nd, after he brandished what police called "a military-style knife." He allegedly lunged at officers with it.

ISIS has called on followers to attack police and military targets where they live if they can't travel to Syria to join the group there.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: June 17, 2015 at 12:00 AM EDT
A previous version of this post stated that Munther Omar Saleh and a co-conspirator were arrested on June 7. They were arrested on June 13.
Dina Temple-Raston is a correspondent on NPR's Investigations team focusing on breaking news stories and national security, technology and social justice.