The son of a Boston police captain has been arrested and charged on suspicion of planning a terrorist attack on behalf of the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS), in methods echoing those used by the Tsarnaev brothers during the Boston Marathon bombers in 2013.
Alexander Ciccolo, 23, was taken into custody by federal officials after authorities said he purchased two rifles and two pistols from an undercover FBI informant from the Western Massachusetts Terrorism Task Force on July 4. Ciccolo, of Adams, Massachusetts — whose father is Boston police Captain Robert Ciccolo — has a previous criminal conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol.
The affidavit alleges that Ciccolo spoke with a "cooperating witness" in recorded conversations about his plans to detonate explosive devices — such as pressure cookers filled with black powder, nails, ball bearings, and glass — targeting public spaces, including college cafeterias, bars, and a police station.
A statement by the Justice Department notes that Ciccolo purchased a pressure cooker from Walmart — similar to the one used in the Boston Marathon bombings that killed three and injured over 260 in April 2013.
When FBI agents raided Ciccolo's apartment following his arrest, they reportedly discovered several Molotov cocktails that were not yet fully built. Also known as petrol bombs, Molotov cocktails are incendiary devices that create a fireball after impact. Ciccolo's Molotov cocktail recipe used shredded pieces of Styrofoam soaked in motor oil. He chose motor oil because it would stick to people's skin and make it harder to put the fire out, according to the Justice Department.
Court documents state that the FBI first became aware of Ciccolo and his plans to travel overseas and fight alongside IS in 2014 when they received a tip from one of his acquaintances, who said that he had a long history of mental instability, and had recently become "obsessed" with Islam, saying he wasn't "afraid to die for the cause" and that America was "Satan." The FBI says that in October it discovered a Facebook profile of the online alias that Ciccolo was using — Ali Al Amriki.
On July 24, Ciccolo allegedly met with the "cooperating witness" where he also expressed a desire to conduct attacks on civilians, members of the US military, and law enforcement personnel.
A week later, the same witness recorded another conversation with Ciccolo, in which he applauded the recent terrorist attacks on a tourist beach in Tunisia and laid out further plans to conduct attacks at state universities — which he describes as "very sinful" places. He allegedly planned to broadcast the attacks online.
After being taken into custody, Ciccolo stabbed a nurse in the head with a pen during a routine screening, according to the affidavit.
Carmen M. Ortiz, the United States attorney for Massachusetts, requested that Ciccolo be detained pending trial because "he poses a danger to the community," and that he is "a risk of flight."
Ciccolo's father was among the responders to the Boston Marathon bombing. He had reportedly previously alerted authorities that his son, who he had minimal contact with, was "going off the deep end."
'While we were saddened and disappointed to learn of our son's intentions, we are grateful that authorities were able to prevent any loss of life or harm to others," the Ciccolo family said in a statement on Monday. "At this time we would ask that the public and the media recognize our grief and respect our desire for privacy."
Ciccolo, who was arraigned Monday night, was set to be in court in Massachusetts Tuesday morning for a detention hearing.