An Islamic State sympathiser who was plotting a terror attack in Times Square has been arrested, Police in the US have revealed.
Following the atrocities in Nice in the summer, Mohamed Rafik Naji, 37, was allegedly working towards carrying out a similar attack in the Manhattan neighbourhood.
Mr Naji was arrested on Monday and charged with attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil).
In July, wiretaps on Naji’s phone recorded him discussing how he wanted to drive a bin lorry into the crowds in Times Square.
He allegedly told a confidential source: “I was saying if there is a truck, I mean a garbage truck, and one drives it there to Times Square and crushes them – shshshshshsh… Times Square Day.”
Police are on high alert in the US as families prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving.
Last week, an online magazine linked to ISIS said “an excellent target” would be the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which passes through central Manhattan on Thursday morning.
In emails sent to his girlfriend, which police have obtained, Naji said he was trying to reach ISIS after travelling to Yemen.
In March 2015, he reportedly wrote: “It’s very hard to get in – I’m on my fifth try.”
“It’s difficult – mad military and people here very scared.”
He also asked for money and sent video files of his “first day on the job” in which gunshots and male voices can be heard.
Mr Naji also updated his Facebook profile picture to depict two men armed with guns, walking toward an ISIS flag.
In another conversation online, Naji allegedly proclaimed his allegiance to the terror group, stating: “I belong to Islamic State only.”
Susan Kellman, his lawyer, said: “I have no idea what my client said and what the confidential source said.
“He had a legitimate purpose for being in Yemen. He has family there.”
Naji reportedly said that ISIS was already carrying out reconnaissance missions around the square – something which New York police have suspected for a while.
In May 2010 a Pakistani man attempted to detonate a car bomb in Times Square.
Naji said: “They want an operation in Times Square, reconnaissance group already put out a scene, the Islamic State already put up scenes of Times Square, you understand.”
“I said that was an indication for whoever is smart to know.”