37-year-old Brooklyn resident Mohamed Rafik Naji was arrested on Monday for planning a Nice, France-style terror attack for Times Square in New York City. FBI officials have reported that Naji discussed detailed plans on how he would carry out the attack using a garbage truck while speaking with FBI informants that he believed to be members of ISIS. He is being charged with attempting to provide support to a terrorist organization.
Naji has been posting pro-ISIS messages on social media since 2014. He traveled to Yemen and Turkey between March 22, 2015 and September 9, 2015 in an unsuccessful attempt to join ISIS. He states that he had difficulty entering ISIS territory. He reportedly sent an email to his girlfriend stating:
“It’s very hard to get in I’m on my 5 try its difficult mad po po military and ppl here very scared inshallah I make it m keep trying if not m have to go from somewhere else.”
He would later send photos and videos of himself dressed in all black and taking gunfire in spite of his claims that he was unable to join the terrorist organization. It is believed that Naji is self-radicalized and not taking direct orders from ISIS contacts at this time. He told FBI informants during a secretly recorded call:
“They want an operation in Times-Square, reconnaissance group already put out a scene, the Islamic State already put up scenes of Times-Square, you understand. I said that was an indication for whoever is smart to know.”
Naji believes ISIS is sending out messages asking lone-wolf jihadi’s to attack the popular tourist attraction. He planned to use a garbage truck to injure a large number of people by using the truck as a battering ram.
He was expected to be arraigned Monday afternoon in Brooklyn Federal Court, according to a spokeswoman for the Eastern District of New York.