A man hurled crude firebombs at an Islamic cultural centre in part because he wasn't allowed to use its bathrooms and targeted four other New York-area sites on New Year's Day because of personal grievances, a law enforcement official said on Tuesday.

The 40-year-old man, of Guyanese descent, was taken into custody on Tuesday after he was tracked through a stolen car with Virginia license plates believed to be at the scene of at least two of the attacks on Sunday evening on a convenience store, three homes and the cultural centre, the police said.

The man, Ray Lazier Lengend, who allegedly confessed to a string of arson attacks at an Islamic cultural centre and four other sites on New Year's Day, was arrested on Tuesday on a hate crime charge, police said.

The charges included one count of arson as a hate crime, four counts of arson and five counts of criminal possession of a weapon, police said.

He was being held by police and couldn't be reached for comment.

The man made statements implicating himself in the attacks and had personal problems with each location, New York Police Department chief spokesman Paul Browne said.

Two of the targets were homes in Queens, and one was a relative's home in neighbouring Nassau County.

The man had prior arrests for drugs, passing bad checks and weapons possession.

Authorities believe the man was kicked out of the convenience store on December 27 for trying to steal a glass Starbucks Frappuccino bottle and milk. Four of the five crude firebombs thrown at the various locations were made from glass Starbucks bottles, police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said earlier Tuesday. The fifth likely was made from a beer bottle.

Witnesses reported the man made threats as he was escorted out, Kelly said.

“When they were pushing him out of the store, he said words to the effect that, 'We're going to get even. We're going to get back at you,'” Kelly said.

No one was injured in any of the attacks, which wrought little or no damage at most of the sites.

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