Brian Ross, Aaron Katersky, and Paul Blake, ABC News, November 22, 2016
With preparations underway for heavy security around this year’s Thanksgiving Day parade, a man residing in Brooklyn, New York was arrested on Monday and charged with attempting to provide material support to the so-called Islamic State after he expressed support for a terror plot in Times Square.
The arrest comes as authorities send a clear message to would-be perpetrators to not even think about attacking this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade by stepping-up public security, after ISIS propaganda used a photo of the annual event in calling on supporters to attack large outdoor gatherings.
“I think this year you are going to see a lot more blocker cars and sand trucks on the cross streets,” NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said.
“We will have additional counter terrorism overlay,” he said. “You will see the people out there with the long guns also.”
The commissioner’s words come mere hours after federal authorities arrested 37-year-old Mohamed Rafik Naji, a citizen of Yemen, who was a legal permanent resident in United States and was residing in the New York City borough of Brooklyn.
According to court documents, Naji, who is a legal permanent resident in the United States, allegedly travelled to Turkey and onward to Yemen in March 2015 where he made repeated attempts to join ISIS before returning to New York six months later.
In a recorded conversation on July 19 of this year with the law enforcement source, he allegedly said: “if there is a truck, I mean a garbage truck and one drives it there to Times-Square and crushes them shshshshshsh…Times-Square day.”
Naji is being held without bail. He has not entered a plea. A request for comment sent to his lawyer was not immediately returned.
“This was a disruption arrest, this was an arrest to disrupt a potential attack, given that this individual was following ISIS direction to carry out an attack against a large crowd,” explained Matt Olsen, an ABC News contributor and the former director of the National Counterterrorism Center.