EXCLUSIVE: The suspect in the Oct. 23 hatchet attack on two New York City cops had been searching online for jihadist propaganda and foreign terror organizations -- as well as information on martyrdom and suicide bombings -- in the weeks leading up to the assault, according to a city counterterrorism bureau intelligence assessment obtained by Fox News.
While initial reporting from unnamed sources suggested Zale Thompson may have been motivated by anti-government or black power sentiments, the four-page document provides new details that speak to Thompson's self-radicalization. They show his online obsession with the "message" of terror groups like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State.
The intelligence assessment, further, said he "may have held a long-standing interest in violent jihad."
"A preliminary analysis by the NYPD of approximately 277 online search terms by Zale Thompson in the weeks leading up to the attack revealed multiple references to 'jihadist' materials," the assessment states. "Thompson used internet search engines to query specific terms including but not limited to 'lone wolf,' 'jihad,' and 'jihad against the police'."
The investigation is ongoing, and the report says "there is no evidence that Thompson conspired with other individuals to carry out the attack" -- but it adds that his Internet searches were focused on known terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda, its affiliate in Somalia known as al-Shabaab, and the Islamic State. It also documents 58 search terms from Thompson's electronic records that range from "jihad against the infidels" to "fatwa against americans" to "death to America in Arabic."
The search history with terms such as "is Saudi Arabia a member of the United Nations" and "Saudi Arabic 69th general assembly un" also suggests Thompson may have considered targeting the annual U.N. conference and Saudi dignitaries.
The intelligence assessment includes an evidence photo from the crime scene where Thomspon appeared to stalk the rookie cops, attacking them with the hatchet -- before he was shot dead. A second ax and hunting knife from the suspect's home were also pictured.
Officer Kenneth Healey, 25, suffered a severe head injury in the attack, and Officer Joseph Meeker, 24, was injured in the arm. Both are rookie officers.
Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., current member of the House Intelligence Committee and a former chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, noted that NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said the attack was terrorism soon after it happened. King said the assessment was pulled together and shared with police across the country after a similar ax attack in Washington, D.C. He said the document shows "it was not just one deranged person, but he was obsessed with Islamic terrorism."
"This was jihadist inspired. Plain and simple," said Frank Cilluffo, associate vice president and director of the Homeland Security Policy Institute of George Washington University. "He had so many search terms in this respect, I think it would be very difficult to suggest that it's anything but."
The intelligence assessment says there is no known link between the New York attack and the one in Washington on Oct. 31 -- where the suspect swung an ax into the window of a police cruiser -- but suggests the pattern of attacks on military and law enforcement, including recently against Canadian soldiers, cannot be ignored.
"As I understand it, NYPD is already instituting new actions, and new steps where instead of patrolling alone, they are going to have group patrols, and stay together even, even simple measures such as having lunch. They are hoping that people will stick together, so you can have two eyes and ears on potential threat," Cilluffo said.
King said ISIS is recruiting individuals on the margins of society. "It shows the real necessity of having surveillance in neighborhoods," he said. "It may not have prevented this attack. But the best way for the police to find out in advance about these potential threats is through informants and people in the community."
Catherine Herridge is an award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) based in Washington, D.C. She covers intelligence, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Herridge joined FNC in 1996 as a London-based correspondent.