A Boston police captain’s son, who authorities called a “committed soldier” of the Islamic State group, was sentenced to 20 years in prison on Wednesday for plotting to use assault rifles and homemade bombs to kill Americans on a college campus.
Alexander Ciccolo, who went by the name Ali Al Amriki, pleaded guilty to terrorism charges in May, three years after his father alerted the FBI about his son’s desire to fight for the terror group.
Ciccolo’s lawyers say the Islamic State terrorist, who dealt with mental health and substance abuse issues, had poorly thought out plans and no real ability to carry out the attack. Authorities, meanwhile, described him as a loyal Islamic-State group supporter devoted to inflicting “maximum damage” upon the United States, the Washington Times reports.
“Make no mistake, Alexander Ciccolo was a committed soldier of ISIS who wanted to kill innocent people at a United States university with assault rifles and pressure cooker bombs, not an unwitting dupe who didn’t understand the gravity of what he was doing,” Hank Shaw, special agent in charge of the Boston FBI office, said in a statement.
Ciccolo was arrested in July 2015 after he received four guns he ordered from a person who was cooperating with the FBI. He pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization and attempting to use weapons of mass destruction, among other charges, one month before he was set to go on trial.
Prosecutors said he also planned to use homemade bombs similar to the pressure cookers used in the deadly 2013 Boston Marathon attack. Ciccolo was seen buying a pressure cooker shortly before his arrest.
Lawyers for 26-year-old Ciccolo identified the school in court documents as New Mexico State University.
After Ciccolo was arrested, he stabbed a prison nurse in the head more than 10 times, authorities said.
Before his arrest, he posted a photo of his Facebook page of Boston Marathon Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev with the words JUSTICE FOR JAHAR KEEP THE HOPE,” prosecutors say. They said he continues to espouse violent rhetoric, saying in a call from behind bars in April: “We’re at the point where Muslims are justified in using violence, yeah I do agree with that.”
Ciccolo’s father hasn’t spoken publicly about his son’s arrest. He told his son’s lawyers that he to this day doesn’t believe his son would have or could have followed through on his plans, his attorneys said in court documents. But his father, who was unaware of a specific plot, said he was worried his son might have done something “smaller and more impulsive,” the lawyers say.
Ciccolo’s mother, Shelley MacInnes, told New England Public Radio last year that her son is “very compassionate” and “would not hurt a fly.”
Recently, two Americans who were killed by Islamic State while cycling around the world are being remembered as dangerously naive free spirits without a lick of common sense.
Lauren Geoghegan and her boyfriend Jay Austin, both 29 years old, were cycling through Tajikistan with a group of foreigners when a car rammed into the group. The duo from Washington, D.C., was 369 days into their trip, reports WBUR.
Five men got out and attacked the tourists with knives. One Dutch and one Swiss national were also killed along with the American couple.
Tajik authorities blamed the attack on an Islamic separatist group, but ISIS took responsibility in a video showing the five alleged attackers.
Geoghegan and Austin set out from the U.S. in July 2017 and chronicled their adventures on a blog called SimplyCycling.
Austin explained their decision to leave, writing: “I’ve grown tired of spending the best hours of my day in front of a glowing rectangle, of coloring the best years of my life in swaths of grey and beige.”
“Maybe it sounds crazy to others, but to me, it sounds exactly like who they were,” said Tiffany del Rio, a friend of the couple.
The trip was an example of Geoghegan’s “openness to new people and places, and her quest for a better understanding of the world,” Robert and Elvira Geoghegan, Lauren’s parents, said in a statement to CBS.
The couple’s adventures took them through Africa, Europe, and eventually Central Asia.
The video below shows the fatal encounter with Islamic State.
Their blog showcased many acts of kindness, like the time they said a stranger pulled their vehicle over to offer the couple ice cream bars or when young girls offered them flowers.
Kazakhstan has been great. Awesome camping on the big, quiet steppe. We sleep late and don't really hit the road until noon. Here's Lauren at maybe 12:03, just a few minutes into our day's riding, right after a kind Kazakh man stopped his truck, said hello and asked us a few questions (my Russian is pretty feeble but I nailed this particular conversation), then handed us two ice cream bars and drove off with a wave. 🍦👋 (Being a vegan, I gave mine to Lauren. She could not finish both.)
It led Austin to write:
“You’re led to believe that the world is a big, scary place. ‘People,’ the narrative goes, ‘are not to be trusted. People are bad. People are evil.’ I don’t buy it.”
Unfortunately for him, his naive outlook on the reality of life got him and his girlfriend killed.
Their last photos show a wide open world, filled with strangers and smiles — the opposite of how they died.
A memorial to the cyclists has been set up at the U.S. embassy in Tajikistan.
This was the first known attack of its kind against Western tourists in Tajikistan, a remote ex-Soviet state located north of Afghanistan in the towering mountains where Islamist militants fought an insurgency against a Moscow-backed government in the 1990s.
Security forces killed four suspected attackers on Monday and detained one. In a statement, the interior ministry said it had detained four more suspects and blamed the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan for the attack.
James E Windsor, Overpasses News Desk
September 6th, 2018