Suspect in NYE machete attack studied Koran, considered international target, officials say

A man suspected of macheteing three New York City police officers has been studying the Koran and considering carrying out an international attack, according to law enforcement sources who have shared new information about the suspect’s movements before the attack.

Trevor Bickford, 19 – a resident of Wells, Maine, nearly 300 miles from Times Square – told investigators he had become radicalized himself in the last three or four months, according to two senior officials briefed on the attack, who characterized the suspect as being raised in a home violent extremist, motivated in part by Salafist extremism.

While only a small minority of Muslims are Salafis, most Muslim violent extremist movements – including al-Qaeda – are rooted in Salafism, a fundamentalist Islamic movement based on the teachings of the 13th and 14th centuries, according to the Minerva Research Initiative, a research program of the Department of Defense and Counter- Extremism Project, a non-partisan international policy organization.

He attacked three police officers with a machete on New Year's Eve in New York.  (NYPD via AP)

He attacked three police officers with a machete on New Year’s Eve in New York. (NYPD via AP)

Bickford was arrested on two counts of attempted murder and two counts of attempted assault.

A spokesman for the Manhattan District Attorney’s office said Tuesday that the timing of Bickford’s indictment remains unclear. Officials say the Department of Justice continues to review whether federal terrorism charges are substantiated.

He was shot in the shoulder by police during the attack and remained in hospital on Tuesday. It wasn’t immediately clear if Bickford had a lawyer to speak on his behalf.

One of the two senior officials briefed on the attack said Bickford had indicated that he initially considered carrying out “jihad” against Burma or China because of the way those governments treat Muslims.

Bickford traveled from Boston to New York on Amtrak on December 29, officials said.

Law enforcement sources say that just before traveling to the city, he considered New York a target and solidified his attack plans upon arrival, adding that the women and children would be unavailable.

A relative made a report three weeks before the attack

Before Bickford, who has no criminal record, went to New York, he was known to law enforcement: Federal agents questioned him in mid-December after a relative alerted them to his revolutionary support of Islam, four law enforcement sources in the investigation said.

A relative – whose relationship to Bickford was not immediately clear – told law enforcement they fear he was depressed and not taking his medication, law enforcement sources said.

In his diary, Bickford referred to non-believers as “kuffar” and indicated that he wanted to die for his religion, according to officials.

He has detailed who his property is to go to and where he wants to be buried if he dies in the attack, law enforcement officials said. He also wrote of his mother’s disappointment and hope that his brothers would join him in the fight for Islam, they said.

According to sources, Bickford also made pro-jihadist statements from his hospital bed after the New Year’s Eve attack.

New details emerge

Just before the December 31 attack, Bickford walked through Central Park, but it’s not clear where he was immediately before the attack, officials said.

Investigators are also checking whether Bickford was staying at a homeless shelter when he arrived in New York, four law enforcement officials said.

During the attack – which took place shortly after 10 p.m. on West 52nd Street and Eighth Avenue, just past the high-security checkpoints that celebrants had to pass through – Bickford shouted “Allahu Akbar,” an Islamic expression meaning “God is the greatest.” law enforcement sources said.

The attack began when a man tried to hit an officer in the head with a machete and then struck two officers in the head with a blade, Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell said Sunday. Sewell said Bickford was then shot and taken into police custody.

Three officers were hospitalized; one had a fractured skull and another had a bad wound. All three were discharged from Bellevue Hospital overnight.

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