FBI foils New Year's terror plot in Rochester, N.Y.
The plan to attack a New Year's revelers at a restaurant/bar is one of several terrorism plots uncovered in upstate New York since the September 11, 2001 attacks.
A young man in Rochester, N.Y., faces charges of plotting to kill people celebrating New Years Eve, the FBI said, in one of several cases of suspected terrorist activity in upstate New York since 9/11.
Emanuel Lutchman, age 25, is suspected of providing material support to the Islamic State. In the past few days, he had purchased supplies at Walmart in preparation to attack, kidnap and kill people at a restaurant or bar on New Year's Eve, as the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle reported. Officials have not released the specific target.
According to an affidavit from FBI Special Agent Timothy Klapec, Mr. Lutchman had pledged allegiance to IS and was attempting to travel to Syria, but was encouraged by a suspected IS-affiliate to launch an attack against non-Muslims in the United States to prove himself.
"New years [sic] is here soon. Do operations and kill some kuffar," Lutchman's contact told him, according to court documents.
He originally discussed bombing the site, but then seemed to plan a machete attack. His Walmart purchase included knives, ski masks, zip ties, and duct tape.
Lutchman was arrested with the help of a paid FBI informant, who bought the supplies with him. He had told an informant that he was "amped up, to accept the fact that's what I gotta do," and was "ready to lose my family."
The FBI also seized a video Lutchman had planned to release after the attack, swearing allegiance to IS and claiming responsibility.
According to the affidavit, Lutchman had previously served five years in prison for a 2006 robbery, and was reluctant to return to prison. The report also notes "previous state Mental Hygiene arrests."
He described himself as a convert to Islam.
Only 2 percent of American Muslims are converts to the religion, but 40 percent of those arrested on terrorism charges in the United States are according to "ISIS in America," a study from George Washington University's Program on Extremism
"This New Year’s Eve prosecution underscores the threat of ISIL even in upstate New York but demonstrates our determination to immediately stop any who would cause harm in its name," U.S. Attorney William Hochul Jr. said, according to the Democrat & Chronicle, using an alternate name for IS.
It is not the first time upstate cities have faced terrorism threats. Most recently, Mufid Elfgeeh, a 32 year-old pizza shop owner, was arrested in May 2014 for recruiting for IS. Mr. Elfgeeh, a naturalized citizen who grew up in Yemen, plead guilty earlier this month and will be sentenced in March 2016.
One of the first post-9/11 arrests for "homegrown terror" took place in the suburbs of nearby Buffalo, N.Y., the state's second-largest city. The "Lackawanna Six," named the Buffalo suburb where five of them were arrested in 2002, were young Yemeni-American men sentenced to federal prison for giving support to Al Qaeda.
The six were accused of training at one of Osama bin Laden's training camps in Afghanistan in spring 2001, and accused of planning an attack in the United States.
In that case, the FBI in Buffalo were tipped off by a letter from another local Yemeni-American, who warned that a group was traveling to "meet bin Laden." The anonymous writer said, "I can not give you my name because I fear for my life."
At the time, the case became a focus for then-President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, who asked Bush to try the men as enemy combatants in a military tribunal. Mr. Bush, however, decided to try them in civilian courts.
But since then critics have questioned whether the men presented a high-level threat. According to Dina Temple-Raston, an NPR counterterrorism correspondent who wrote a book about the case, The Jihad Next Door, it is unclear whether the men understood "what that camp meant." As she told NPR in a 2007 interview:
I think there's a very bright line between people who attend these kinds of camps after 9/11 versus people beforehand. I think they thought they were going to go to Bosnia - or Chechnya maybe - as Muslim freedom fighters of some sort.
"It's actually one of the early episodes that we have a preemptive justice here in this country," Ms. Temple-Raston said, adding that many in Buffalo felt "these were sort of hapless 20-somethings who had clearly made a bad decision but had been watched for over a year and during that year, had not planned anything."