WASHINGTON – With police on heightened alert in Times Square and elsewhere around the nation, the FBI announced the arrest of a 25-year-old man in upstate New York for allegedly providing material support to Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant and planning to "kill innocent civilians on New Year's Eve in the name of the terrorist organization."
Emanuel L. Lutchman, who was arraigned Thursday before a federal judge in Rochester, N.Y., said an ISIL operative in Syria had encouraged him in e-mails to try to kill thousands of people in the Rochester area, according to court records.
According to court records, Lutchman spent much of the past two months in contact with an ISIL operative overseas, meeting with three FBI informants around Rochester, acquiring knives and other assault tools at a Wal-Mart, and hoping to win a spot with the militant group in Syria.
A former convict, Lutchman allegedly told FBI informants that joining ISIL was a "dream come true." He said, according to federal court records, "I will take a life. I don't have a problem with that."
The case caps a year that saw the FBI launch terrorism-related investigations in every state and jurisdiction, and make more than 60 arrests of alleged supporters of ISIL or other extremist groups.
The year also saw three domestic incidents that the FBI considered terrorism.
On May 3, two armed men were shot and killed as they prepared to attack a "Draw Muhammad" contest in Garland, Texas. On July 16, a gunman was killed after he had shot and killed four Marines and a sailor in Chattanooga, Tenn. And on Dec. 2, a married couple — Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik — were killed in a shootout with police after they had shot and killed 14 people and wounded 22 others in San Bernardino, Calif.
Like Lutchman, court records claim, Farook and Malik were radicalized on the Internet. Unlike Lutchman, however, they were inspired by ISIL but not specifically directed to carry out an attack.
Court records describe Lutchman as a self-professed Muslim convert with a criminal history dating to 2006, including a New York state conviction for robbery and a five-year prison sentence.
He did not enter a plea in court Thursday. If convicted, he could face up to 20 years in prison.
FBI special agent Timothy J. Klapec said in a 10-page affidavit that Lutchman began telling a paid undercover informant in November that he hoped to join ISIL abroad but had been advised by a Syrian operative there that the borders were closed.
Lutchman then began considering a terrorist attack in the Rochester area to prove his allegiance to ISIL, the FBI said. Lutchman said the ISIL operative in Syria told him, "New years is here soon. Do operations and kill some kuffar," according to the affidavit.
Lutchman told another FBI informant that he had been directed to "find the places where the most population" is and "take as many as possible out." He allegedly discussed "doing assassinations" and considered building a pressure cooker bomb similar to those used in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings.
"I'm getting amped up, to accept the fact that's what I gotta do," he allegedly told an FBI third informant Monday.
He considered planting a bomb in a local nightclub and taking hostages, but he had no money for bomb components or firearms, the affidavit said.