US charges 25-year-old over alleged New Year's Eve plot
December 31 2015 08:44 PM
New York
A New York police officer keeps an eye on people at Times Square before New Year's Eve celebrations in the city.

AFP/New York

US authorities said on Thursday they had arrested and charged a 25-year-old man over an alleged attempt to launch a New Year's Eve attack in Rochester, New York in the name of the Islamic State group.

Emanuel Lutchman was charged with attempting to provide material support to the IS group, the Justice Department said - a charge that carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

"This New Year's Eve prosecution underscores the threat of ISIL even in upstate New York, but demonstrates our determination to immediately stop any who would cause harm in its name," said federal prosecutor William Hochul.

Hochul, the US attorney for the western district of New York, said Lutchman's arrest sent a message to others considering possible attacks inspired by the jihadist group - "you will be caught, you will be prosecuted, and you will be punished."

Authorities said that Lutchman, claiming to have received direction from an IS operative abroad, intended to "commit an armed attack against civilians at a restaurant/bar located in the Rochester, New York, area today, New Year's Eve."

His plot was to be carried out "on behalf of ISIL and in furtherance of his plan to join ISIL overseas," the statement said, referring to the Islamic State group by an acronym commonly used by the US government.

Lutchman is a self-professed Muslim convert with a criminal history dating back nearly 10 years that includes a robbery conviction, according to court documents.

Rochester is located in the western part of New York state on Lake Ontario, more than 530 kilometres northwest of Manhattan.

Authorities in the West are on edge as 2016 arrives, especially in the wake of the Paris attacks in November that killed 130 people, and a deadly December 2 gun attack in San Bernardino, California by a Muslim couple believed to have been inspired by IS ideology.

Both Paris and Brussels cancelled New Year's Eve fireworks displays as soldiers and police ramped up security in European capitals over perceived terror threats.

In New York, where 1mn people were expected to gather in Times Square to watch the traditional ball drop ceremony, thousands of police officers were deployed, including hundreds who are part of a new anti-terror force.

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