By Sadef Ali Kully
A Flushing student from Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology has been charged with conspiring to support a foreign terrorist organization after a federal investigation revealed that the terror suspect had been planning to attack various New York City landmarks on behalf of the Islamic State, according to the authorities.
The alleged would-be terrorist, Munther Omar Saleh, 20, who was studying electrical circuitry at Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology in East Elmhurst, was arrested Saturday when investigators said he ran toward an undercover law enforcement car that was following him, according to the criminal complaint filed by the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn.
The criminal complaint said Saleh translated Islamic State propaganda into English, criticized the terrorist organization Al Qaeda as “too moderate” and sought ways to learn how to build an explosive device.
On June 13, Saleh and two unnamed co-conspirators tried to dodge a federal surveillance team in their green Jeep Cherokee by speeding through a parking lot with their lights off and pulling over, the complaint said. Around 4 a.m., near the Whitestone Expressway, Saleh and one of the suspected co-conspirators exited their vehicle and ran toward the surveillance car. The alleged co-conspirator, who was not charged in the complaint, had a folding knife in his waistband, the court document said. The same co-conspirator had also sent a YouTube video link featuring ISIS propaganda in Syria, according to the complaint .
Saleh, a U.S. citizen, allegedly looked at images of New York tourist attractions for attack sites and searched online for materials to build a pressure-cooker bomb, the complaint contended.
In September, Saleh posted a message on Twitter that said Al Qaeda was “getting too moderate” and in a February message praised the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, “for their high end videos, great weaponry and quality fighters,” according to the complaint.
He also expressed support on Twitter for the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack in Paris and the attack in May outside a cartoon contest in Texas, prosecutors contended.
On two consecutive days in March, a Port Authority police officer saw Saleh walking on the George Washington Bridge and allegedly behaving suspiciously, the criminal complaint said. After being approached by authorities, Saleh agreed to come to the Port Authority New Jersey office for an interview and allowed authorities to search his computer, the document said.