House Homeland Security Chairman Peter King (R-N.Y.) said Sunday evening that radicalized Muslim converts like Jose Pimentel, the Dominican-born U.S. citizen accused of an al Qaeda-inspired bomb plot, "are a growing issue" among counterterrorism officials.
"Converts are definitely a threat," King told The Huffington Post shortly after New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the arrest of Pimentel, a 27-year-old man from the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan. Citing a Muslim convert who pleaded guilty to killing a solider and wounding another in a shooting at an Arkansas military recruiting station, King said converts who become radicalized are "sometimes the most dedicated, if you will" to carrying out violent attacks against Western targets.
Pimentel, whom Bloomberg described as a "lone wolf" who took his cues from al Qaeda's English-language propaganda magazine Inspire but was not affiliated with the group, is accused of planning attacks on a variety of targets, including police officers and returning military personnel. In that way, King said, Pimentel's plan resembled the 2009 Fort Hood mass shooting by Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan, the Arkansas case and others in which Islamists angered by the U.S. invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan have targeted military personnel.
"Our intelligence sources told us there is a growing threat against the military," King said, noting a growing number of cases in which returning veterans have been targeted. He also said there are more indications that servicemembers themselves are being influenced by Islamic extremists to turn against others in their ranks.
King said his committee will hold a joint hearing with the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on Dec. 7 to explore threats against and within the military.