A 25-year-old American Muslim convert has been arrested and charged with planning an "Islamic State"-inspired New Year's Eve attack on a restaurant in upstate New York. He was caught in a sting operation.
Emanuel Lutchman was charged with planning to carry out an attack on a restaurant in Rochester, New York, and attempting to provide material support to the IS terror group, the US Justice Department said Thursday.
Lutchman, "claiming to receive direction from an overseas ISIL member, planned to commit an armed attack against civilians at a restaurant bar located in the Rochester, New York, area today," the US Justice Department said, using another acronym for the terror group.
The federal charges said Lutchman was a self-proclaimed convert to Islam who told a paid Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) informant in telephone conversations in November and December that he supported IS.
The informant encouraged Lutchman to carry out an attack to prove his loyalty.
Lutchman was arrested on Wednesday, a day after he went to a Walmart with another FBI informant to buy two black ski masks, two knives, a machete, duct tape, zip-ties, ammonia and latex gloves for the attack, the Justice Department said.
The informant paid $40 (37 euros) for the supplies because Lutchman had no money, the indictment said.
Lutchman had a criminal history going back 10 years, including a robbery conviction, according to court documents. He spent about five years in prison and had a history of mental illness, officials said.
If convicted, Lutchman could face up to 20 years in prison.
High alert for IS inspired attacks
The charges come as the West is on high alert following terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, which authorities say were carried out by Muslim citizens inspired by IS.
In response to the continued threat of terrorism both Paris and Belgium cancelled New Year's firework displays. In other European capitals there is a heavy police and soldier presence on the streets.
In New York, thousands of police and counter-terror officers have been deployed in the streets as up to a million people are expected to congregate in Times Square for the annual dropping of the ball.
US officials said the arrest highlighted both the threat posed by IS as well as the vigilance with which law enforcement is tracking down potential threats.
"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," said federal prosecutor William Hochul.
He added the arrest sent a message to other would-be attackers that "you will be caught, you will be prosecuted, and you will be punished."
cw/jil (AFP, AP, Reuters)