A former teacher at a charter high school and his twin brother were arrested on Thursday on federal bomb-making charges, stockpiling more than 32 pounds of ingredients for explosives in a closet in their apartment in the Bronx, law enforcement officials said.There was a bomb threat, but they weren't the guys who phoned it in:
The teacher paid high school students $50 an hour to break apart fireworks to extract the explosive powder, authorities said.
Investigators also found diary writings referring to an “Operation Flash” and a purple index card that read, “Under the full moon the small ones will know terror,” according to officials and a criminal complaint filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan.
The teacher, Christian Toro, and his brother, Tyler Toro, both 27, appeared in federal court in Manhattan Thursday afternoon and were ordered held in custody.
Law enforcement officials “likely saved many, many lives,” in making the arrests, Mayor Bill de Blasio said at an 8 p.m. news conference at Police Headquarters. Officials at the news conference, however, did not provide any details about a possible motive, a target or any plans to explode a device.
The investigation that ultimately led to the Toro brothers began on Dec. 4, when a bomb threat was called into the Harlem charter school where Christian Toro worked, according to the complaint and John J. Miller, the deputy commissioner of intelligence and counterterrorism, who spoke at the news conference with Mr. de Blasio.There was a bomb-making manual which these guys were apparently too dumb to delete.
A 15-year-old student was arrested and charged with making the threatening call.
A spokesman for the school, Democracy Prep High School, said Christian Toro resigned on Jan. 9. Three days later, his brother returned to the school a laptop computer that the school had given Christian Toro, Mr. Miller said.
“After he resigned, Democracy Prep did a routine review of his laptop and was deeply disturbed by suspicious content,” said Jeffrey W. Schneider, a spokesman for Democracy Prep.
A technician at the charter school examined Mr. Toro’s laptop, and found on its hard drive a copy of a book that contained instructions for making explosives, the complaint said. The school alerted law enforcement officials.You know how Donald Trump said "And they're rapists"? He might have added "And they're bombers" to that without being wrong. Still, these guys probably really are Bronx brothers in the sense that they were born there.
On Jan. 31, the police arrested Christian Toro and charged him with raping a victim younger than 17. A law enforcement official said that the alleged victim was a student at the school where he worked. “That was something that developed as a result of the investigation of the bomb scare to the school,” according to Mr. Miller. Mr. Toro was released on bail two days later, according to city records.
On Feb. 8, the F.B.I. and police officers interviewed the Toro brothers in their apartment, and Christian Toro told agents that he had come across the explosives book while doing research about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and had not meant to download it onto his computer, according to the complaint. He said that he had never built a bomb, the complaint said.
Six days later, on Valentine’s Day, law enforcement agents interviewed students at the charter school, who told them that at least two students had visited the Toros’s apartment to break down the fireworks, storing the powder in containers, the complaint said. It said that the students appeared to have gone to the apartment between October and early January.
On Thursday morning, law enforcement agents executed a search warrant at the brothers’ apartment, where they lived with a female relative.
The complaint said that the agents found bomb-making materials in a closet, including a box containing about 20 pounds of iron oxide, five pounds of aluminum powder, five pounds of potassium nitrate, all materials that can be used to build explosives. It also contained about two pounds of confectioners sugar, which the complaint said can be used as fuel in an explosive. They also found firecrackers and other explosive materials and a bag of metal balls that could have been used as shrapnel in a bomb.
Mr. Miller said that investigators also found “simulated weapons” at the apartment.
The complaint said that on a kitchen table the agents found a diary, which contained Tyler Toro’s name in it, along with contact information. The diary contained handwriting that said, among other things, “We are twin Toros strike us now, we will return with nano thermite.”
It also said, “If you’re registered as a sex offender, things will be difficult. But I am here 100%, living, buying weapons, whatever we need.”
The complaint said that in a bedroom that the brothers share, agents found a yellow backpack belonging to Christian Toro. Inside the backpack was the index card with the writing that said, “Under the full moon the small ones will know terror.”
The New York Times finishes with a roundup that reminds us that most actual terrorism come neither from Bronx brothers or white supremacists, but from immigrants:
The arrests come after a pair of recent terror attacks in New York City.
On Dec. 11, Akayed Ullah, an immigrant from Bangladesh, tried to detonate a homemade bomb in a subway corridor near the Port Authority, bringing the heart of Midtown to a standstill. He later told investigators that he “did it for the Islamic State.”
Six weeks earlier, on Halloween, Sayfullo Saipov, an Uzbek immigrant, killed eight people and injured a dozen others, when he rammed a rented Home Depot truck into a crowded bike path in Lower Manhattan, near Stuyvesant High School. And on Oct. 6, federal authorities revealed that they had foiled a plot to detonate bombs in Times Square and the subway system, and to open fire at concert venues.
The arrests also come two days after Ahmad Khan Rahimi, an Afghan-born immigrant, who was convicted of exploding a pressure-cooker bomb in Manhattan in 2016, was sentenced to two life terms in prison.