Suspected ISIS backer held for New York New Year's Eve attack plot

Security on high alert around Times Square in approach to famous countdown.

By REUTERS
December 31, 2015 19:08
2 minute read.
New Year's Eve

Confetti flies around the New Year's Eve Ball Drop, after midnight ,during New Year's eve celebrations in Times Square, New York January 1, 2015.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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A 25-year-old man who planned to attack a restaurant in Rochester, New York, on New Year's Eve has been arrested and charged with attempting to provide material support to Islamic State, the US Justice Department said on Thursday.

"The FBI thwarted Emanuel Lutchman's intent to kill civilians on New Year's Eve," a Justice Department statement quoted FBI Special Agent in Charge Adam S. Cohen as saying. "The FBI remains concerned about people overseas who use the Internet to inspire people in the United States to commit acts of violence where they live."


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The justice department said in a statement that Lutchman was "claiming to receive direction from an overseas ISIL member, and planned to commit an armed attack against civilians at a restaurant/bar located in the Rochester, New York, area today."



A criminal complaint against Lutchman, who appeared in US District Court for the Western District of New York on Thursday, described him as a "self-professed Muslim convert with a criminal history dating back to approximately 2006.... as well as previous state mental hygiene arrests."



It said Lutchman expressed support for Islamic State in telephone conversations with a paid informant in November and December. It said that this month he was in contact with someone who identified himself as a member of the militant group in Syria.



On Tuesday, he went to a Walmart store in Rochester with another informant and bought two black ski masks, zip-ties, two knives, a machete, duct tape, ammonia and latex gloves for the planned attack, the complaint said.

In the run-up to the New Years festivities, about 6,000 police officers will guard revelers on New Year's Eve at one of the city's highest-profile events, the Times Square countdown.

An estimated one million people are expected in the vicinity of the square on Thursday for the New Year's Eve dropping of the ball, a tradition begun in 1907 and broken only during wartime blackouts.

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In the aftermath of Islamist-inspired attacks in San Bernardino, California, and Paris, the city will draw on its new Critical Response Command counterterrorism unit, which includes more heavily armed officers, to patrol Times Square. The unit, trained to detect and respond to attack plots, was commissioned days before the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Officers communicating with smart phones and loud speakers will be empowered to shut down the event at any time and evacuate the area, Police Commissioner William Bratton said, adding that there were no known credible threats against New York City.

In November after attacks in Paris that left 130 people dead, the Islamic State militant group, also known as ISIS, released a video that showed a glimpse of Times Square and then a suicide bomber.

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