Federal authorities arrested a Canadian man this summer accused of an ISIS-inspired plot to attack music concerts, landmarks and crowded subway in New York City, according to multiple officials familiar with the case.
The news comes days after a lone actor with no link to any terror group opened fire on a concert crowd in Las Vegas, killing 58 people. Terrorists earlier killed concertgoers in England and France.
Investigators said the goal was to injure as many people as possible, but the suspect was arrested before obtaining any weapons. They described the plot as inspired by the ISIS terror group but said it was more aspirational than operational. It wasn’t immediately clear which venues may have been targeted.
Officials said the suspect spoke to a second man about wanting to strike Times Square and the crowded New York City subway during rush hour. Times Square saw a failed car bomb attempt by terrorist Faisal Shahzad in 2010 and the 2009 Zazi plot was set to be a series of backpack bombings on the subways.
While the plan may have been aspirational, former FBI Supervisor J.J. Klaver said the FBI, the Joint Terrorism Task Force and the U.S. Attorney’s Office wouldn’t have made the arrest if the man’s plans were “just idle talk.”
“They are going to look at the extent of the plans being made and the extent that these guys are taking actions to further those plans,” said Klaver.
Although officials said the plot was discovered months ago, prosecutors were not prepared to reveal the arrests until Friday, in part because federal agents wanted to be certain no other people were involved.
Klaver said terrorism investigations require a balance “between protecting the integrity of the investigation and letting the public know the vital information they need to determine whether or not they feel safe going to a particular venue.”
Sources familiar with the case said this was not a typical law enforcement sting operation, but the FBI and the NYPD became aware of the plot and introduced an undercover operative to help monitor it.