Jihad-inspired teenager charged for attempted murder in New York

A teenager accused of attacking three police officers with a machete near Times Square on New Year’s Eve was charged in federal court Tuesday with attempted murder — a crime that investigators have linked to Islamist extremism.

Prosecutors say the man had considered travelling to Afghanistan to ally himself with the Taliban before attacking three police officers with a machete shortly before midnight on Dec 31 outside a secure area set up for New Year’s Eve celebrations.

The four federal charges — all for attempted murder — against Trevor Bickford, 19, add to a slew of New York state charges, some terrorism-related. It was not immediately clear which case would move forward first.

Bickford, a 19-year-old man who is resident of the northern state of Maine, allegedly travelled to Times Square on New Year’s Eve “to carry out a brazen act of violence and hatred in the name of jihad”, US Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement.

At a security checkpoint outside the gathering, Bickford stabbed and hit three New York police officers with a machete before being shot in the shoulder, the complaint says, adding that all three officers were hospitalised.

However, all three officers survived and Bickford was taken into custody after being shot in the shoulder by police gunfire.

The four federal charges each carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, according to the statement.

“We are deeply grateful for the bravery of the officers who were injured in this horrible attack,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland, who described the assault as “jihad-inspired”.

Garland added, “We allege that the defendant plotted a jihad-inspired attack targeting US government officials, and on Dec 31, 2022, attacked three NYPD officers who were part of the joint federal-state law enforcement operation protecting the Times Square New Year’s Eve celebration.”

The criminal complaint alleges that Bickford began “accessing and consuming materials espousing radical” Islamist ideology in the summer of 2022 and later was interested in travelling to the Middle East and Afghanistan “to support the Taliban”.

He “told a family member that he wanted to travel to the Middle East so that he could be a suicide bomber” but later decided he “would wage jihad against the US Government within the United States”, the complaint says.

Authorities say that FBI agents interviewed Bickford in December after his mother reported her concern that her son was possibly becoming radicalised. The agents placed him on a federal watch list to prevent him from travelling overseas.

In the United Kingdom, police in February 2020 shot dead a man in London wearing a “hoax device” and suspected of stabbing two people, in an “Islamist-related” terrorist incident.

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