NEW YORK: A young man threatening to blow up Trump Tower and the Israeli consulate in New York was arrested Wednesday (May 22) in New Jersey, the state's federal prosecutor said.
Investigators found a series of threatening message posted on social media by Jonathan Xie, 20, a sympathiser of the Al Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, the Islamist movement that rules the Gaza Strip.
Xie, originally from the affluent New Jersey neighborhood Basking Ridge, was charged with two counts of attempting to provide material support to a terrorist organisation - each punishable by up to 20 years in prison - two counts of making false statements and one count of transmitting a threat in interstate commerce.
"The threat from homegrown violent extremists who self-radicalise remains persistent," said US Attorney Craig Carpenito in a statement.
"While more Americans may be familiar with ISIS, we take seriously those who wish to help any designated terrorist organisation."
In December, according to the prosecution's statement Xie sent US$100 via virtual transfer to an individual in Gaza whom he believed to be a member of the Al Qassam Brigades. He then bragged about it on Instagram, posting, "Pretty sure it was illegal but I don't give a damn."
He said in February he wanted to join the US army "to learn how to kill". In April, he posted photos of Trump Tower on Instagram superimposed with text saying he wanted to plant a bomb there.
On one photo, he added a "Yes/No" poll asking, "Should I bomb Trump Tower?" along with as a bomb emoji.
Later in the month, he posted an Instagram live video in which he displayed a Hamas flag and a handgun, stating he wanted to go to a "pro-Israel march" and wanted "to shoot everybody" there, the statement added.
The last attempted attack in New York was in December 2017, when a Bangladeshi man, inspired by the Islamic State group, tried to detonate a bomb in a tunnel below the Port Authority bus terminal, not far from the iconic Times Square.
The bomb, which he strapped to his body with zip wires, did not detonate as planned and failed to seriously injure anyone other than himself.
Convicted last November, he faces a maximum sentence of life in prison when he is sentenced on Sep 10, 2019.