(NEW YORK) — A New York City teen was arraigned and ordered held without bail on Friday after he was arrested for allegedly planning to conduct a possible terrorist knife or bomb attack nearby his home.
Awais Chudhary was charged by prosecutors in Brooklyn Federal Court as part of a national security investigation into a possible ISIS-inspired attack using a “special FBI knife,” officials said.
Chudhary, 19 of East Elmhurst, New York, allegedly exchanged texts with undercover investigators during a five-day period about what authorities describe as an interest in conducting a possible ISIS-inspired attacks at locations within a block of his house.
Prosecutors charged in the criminal complaint that Chudhary pledged allegiance to ISIS and listed targets such as “the pedestrian bridges over the Grand Central Parkway to the Flushing Bay Promenade … and the New York World’s Fair marina” in order to target “multiple vehicles.”
Chudhary also wanted “to record his attack in order to inspire others to perform similar attacks,” according to the criminal complaint.
In a statement issued on Thursday, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of New York said, “There is no current public safety issue as a result of the arrest.”
Chudhary’s alleged planned means of escape after the attack was on a scooter.
The alleged knife attacker’s attorney Samuel Jacobson said his client is “just a kid” and the allegations are a part of “a fantasy.”
“The government screams out in the complaint that this is not a real plot…he was looking at Dunkin’ Donuts near his house, not Times Square,” said Jacobson.
“This happened all within five days before the arrest. There’s no allegations of any communications with ISIS or its affiliates … Look at the facts of a case to a real plot, who contacted an ISIS affiliate, it’s totally different,” said Jacobson.
Assistant United States Attorney Jonathan Algore said Chudhary was the one who suggested the attack. “He did surveillance of the areas, provided video of what he called ‘bucket bombs,’ he talked about avoiding detection in order to commit more (attacks),” said Algore to the judge during the bail hearing.
Chudhury, who allegedly thought he was communicating with ISIS since Aug. 23, said he intended to do a knife attack because “that’s all he knows,” but if he was instructed on how to build a “bucket bomb” he would “consider a bombing attack as well,” according to the criminal complaint.
Chudhary, who Jacobson said, wears braces and works part-time at a pharmacy to help his sick father, is charged with providing material or source material to a terrorist group. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in federal prison. His next court date is on Sept. 13 at 11 a.m.
Magistrate Judge James Orenstein denied issuing any bail amount for Chudhary or to release him to the custody of his parents.
“The defendant is a significant danger to the community…What is there to suggest this is a fantasy? Well, his age, but we can think of others who committed mayhem — Columbine, Newtown — all committed by young people. Was this a fantasy? I sure hope so,” said Judge Orenstein.
The arrests were one of many recently connected to ISIS sympathizers.
A federal grand jury returned an indictment against a man from Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, saying he was inspired by ISIS when he stole a U-Haul van on March 26 and drove it to Maryland with the intent of using it as a weapon to hit pedestrians on sidewalks at the National Harbor complex on the Potomac River.
In mid-July, Ruslan Maratovich Asainov, a naturalized citizen from Kazakhstan living in Brooklyn, was charged with providing and attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, according to a criminal complaint unsealed in federal court.
He had allegedly traveled to Syria first in 2013 and became a sniper and weapons instructor for ISIS.
It was less than a week ago that two women from Queens — Noelle Velentzas, 31, and Asia Siddiqui, 35 — pleaded guilty to charges of attempting to build an explosive device after the ISIS sympathizers communicated with an undercover agent.
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