A large-scale terror attack was most likely thwarted with the arrest of a 23-year-old supporter of the Islamic State from Massachusetts who bought pistols and rifles from a confidential FBI informant earlier this month.
Alexander Ciccolo, a convert to Islam, had planned an attack at a state university. The plan was centered around college dorms and cafeterias and included “executions of students, which would be broadcast live via the internet.”
A search of Ciccolo’s apartment revealed bomb-making equipment, including chemicals and a pressure cooker, “attack planning papers” and other papers relating to “jihad.”
Officials also found a number of semi-constructed “Molotov cocktails.” They reported Ciccolo had said at an earlier time that the fire from these devices, once exploded, was designed to stick to the victim's skin making it difficult to put out the flames.
Ciccolo, who now goes by the name of Abu Ali al-Amriki, is the estranged son of Robert Ciccolo, a captain in the Boston’s police force who was a first responder in the bombing of the Boston Marathon in 2013.
Capt. Ciccolo had reported his son a year ago to counter-terrorism officials after he saw he “was going off the deep end” and “spouting extremist jihadist sympathies.” The father and son had not had much contact over the last few years.
The FBI said the arrested son said he was “inspired” by the bombing at the Boston Marathon and its methodology. “Allahu Akbar!!! I got the pressure cooker today,” he reported to an undercover FBI operative.
An FBI affidavit also showed Ciccolo praised the recent terror attack in Tunisia in which 39 tourists were killed, saying, “Awesome. Awesome, you that ah, that brother in Tunisia was impressive.
Another post included a photo of a dead American soldier with the comment, “Thank you Islamic State. Now we won’t have to deal with these kafir [infidels] back in America.”
In a bizarre twist of allegiances, Ciccolo participated in an anti-nuclear “peace walk” in the summer of 2012 in Ontario, Canada. ABC news reported that Ciccolo walked with a Buddist named Jun Yasuda in the march.
Yasuda said it seemed that Ciccolo was “concerned about peace… and understood about non-violent protest. We walked together after Fukushima, and he realized that he had an open mind and that people were wonderful.”
In a statement posted on the Boston Police Department’s website, Ciccolo’s family said, "While we were saddened and disappointed to learn of our son's intentions, we are grateful that authorities were able to prevent any loss of life or harm to others. At this time, we would ask that the public and the media recognize our grief and respect our desire for privacy."
Ciccolo was quietly arrested on July 4 as part of a broad-based counter-terrorism operation by U.S. security officials that saw the arrest of more than 10 individuals with suspected connections to the Islamic State who may have been planning attacks on the national holiday.
After his arrest, Ciccolo attacked a nurse who was performing a routine medical screening on him. During the exam, Ciccolo grabbed a pen and stabbed the nurse in her forehead causing a bleeding incision.
His detention hearing is scheduled for July 14.