How federal authorities closed in on terror suspect
Alexander Ciccolo came up this summer with a detailed plan for an Islamic State-inspired attack on a university that he would broadcast live on the Internet, prosecutors said.
But by late June, Ciccolo — also known as Ali Al Amriki — had already been on the radar of federal investigators for months. They first became aware in September of his "obsession" with Islam and interest in the Islamic State, according to court documents.
Based on court records filed by the prosecution, here are some key points in the probe that led to the July 4 arrest of Ciccolo.
• Sept. 11, 2014: The FBI received information from an acquaintance who said Ciccolo had expressed a desire to go overseas and fight for ISIS. A law enforcement official briefed on the case said his father, a Boston police captain, is the acquaintance who notified authorities.
• Oct. 17, 2014: The FBI discovered a Facebook profile for Ali Al Amriki, which allegedly indicated interest in martyrdom for the sake of Islam and showed that the user was living in the United States.
• Oct. 27, 2014: The Ali Al Amriki Facebook page showed an apparent image of a dead soldier, along with the statement, "Thank you Islamic State! Now we won't have to deal with these kafir back in America." The term "kafir" refers to those who do not believe in Islam.
• June 24, 2015: Ciccolo allegedly met in Pittsfield with an unidentified cooperating witness, and discussed his plans to go to another state to attack civilians, military personnel, and law enforcement workers. Specifically, authorities said, Ciccolo planned to attack two bars and a police station using explosive devices including "pressure cooker bombs and/or portable microwave bombs."
• June 30, 2015: Ciccolo and the cooperating witness met again, prosecutors said. The two allegedly discussed recent events in Tunisia, France, and Kuwait — conversations the government believes had to do with recent terror attacks in those places. Ciccolo also allegedly wrote out a list of firearms and explosives he wanted for the attack, and said he had shifted his attack plan to a university. He said he wanted to carry out the attack before the end of holy month of Ramadan in mid-July — and by July 31 at the latest.
• July 2, 2015: The cooperating witness had an online conversation with Ciccolo, prosecutors said, and Ciccolo asked whether the witness had any explosives. Ciccolo allegedly said he was considering attacking a bar near a college, and would use two pressure cooker bombs like those used by the Boston Marathon bombers. In a later online conversation that day, prosecutors say, Ciccolo commented that "things are moving right along," and that he had decided to attack a college cafeteria instead.
• July 3, 2015: Federal agents allegedly saw Ciccolo buy a pressure cooker at a Walmart in North Adams. He allegedly reported the purchase to the cooperating witness and said he had made 10 firebombs.
• July 4, 2015: Ciccolo allegedly received the four firearms. He was arrested as he carried the two rifles and two handguns back to his apartment, authorities said.
• July 14, 2015: Ciccolo is slated to appear at a detention hearing in federal court in Springfield.