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Terror suspect's mother apologizes, thanks N.Y. police for arrest

November 21, 2011 |  9:59 am

The mother of a Dominican-born U.S. citizen arrested in connection with an alleged terrorist plot targeting American troops, as well as post offices and police, apologized on Monday to New York City as she expressed shock over her son's arrest.

"I want to apologize to the city. I love the city," 56-year-old Carmen Sosa said as reporters thronged the apartment building in Manhattan's Hamilton Heights neighborhood where she lived with Jose Pimentel. Pimentel, 27, was arrested Saturday afternoon as he was putting the finishing touches on a pipe bomb, according to police.

"I'm very disappointed with what my son was doing. I didn't raise him that way. I feel very bad about the situation," said Sosa, who opened the front door of her apartment to reporters. "I thank the police," added Sosa, who works for a nonprofit organization helping find housing for the mentally ill. "They did what they were supposed to."

According to a five-page criminal complaint, Pimentel had gleaned bomb-making instructions from an online magazine, Inspire, and had been under surveillance for two years. He was driven by anger over the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and his views became so extreme in recent years that even close friends who shared some of his political views became worried, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said at a news conference Sunday night.

It is unclear when Pimentel converted to Islam, but Kelly said he appeared to have been especially enraged by the Sept. 30 killing by U.S. forces of radical American-born cleric Anwar Awlaki in Yemen. At that point, his bomb-making efforts took on a new urgency, the commissioner said.

But Pimentel's apparent radicalism went unnoticed by his family and by the people who knew him in Hamilton Heights, a heavily Dominican neighborhood on upper Manhattan's West Side where gentrification has yet to take hold. Many of the small-business signs are in Spanish, the language spoken by many of the people walking down the bustling streets.

Pimentel, who has an ex-wife, is believed to have moved in with his mother after returning to Manhattan from Schenectady, N.Y., where he had been for several years. Police said he came back to Manhattan, where he was raised, after his marriage ended. The building where he lived houses a mix of Dominicans and young people studying at nearby City College or Columbia University, such as Sean McKenna.

McKenna, 25, a Columbia graduate student in urban studies, told a reporter that Pimentel was often on the building's stoop smoking and sometimes making small talk with neighbors.

"If I read about a terrorist in New York, I would have been all worried, but knowing the situation, well, it feels amateurish," McKenna said of Pimentel, who is being held without bond. "He was the only person in the building I knew ... and he wasn't talking jihad."

Michael Echevaria, an assistant manager at a Manhattan retail store, said he knew Pimentel from junior high school.

Echevaria said whenever he came back to the neighborhood to visit his grandmother, he would see Pimentel hanging out on the stoop. "I thought that he was either homeless or a drug dealer at this point," said Echevaria, who is also Dominican and who said he worries that Pimentel's arrest could cause New Yorkers to view other Dominicans with suspicion.

"We don't need this," he said.

Pimentel's next court appearance is set for Nov. 25.

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-- Geraldine Baum and Tina Susman in New York

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