NEW YORK: A Bangladeshi man with alleged Al-Qaeda links was arrested Wednesday in New York on charges of trying to use a 453-kilogram bomb to destroy the city’s Federal Reserve building.
Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis, 21, was arrested in Manhattan after he tried to detonate what he thought was a live bomb, but was actually a dummy provided in a sting operation, federal prosecutors in Brooklyn said.
Nafis traveled to the United States in January 2012 “for the purpose of conducting a terrorist attack on U.S. soil,” the federal prosecutor’s office in Brooklyn said in a statement.
“Nafis, who reported having overseas connections to Al-Qaeda, attempted to recruit individuals to form a terrorist cell inside the United States,” the prosecutor’s office said.
“Nafis also actively sought out Al-Qaeda contacts within the United States to assist him in carrying out an attack. Unbeknownst to Nafis, one of the individuals he attempted to recruit was actually a source for the FBI.”
Nafis allegedly wrote a statement claiming responsibility for his planned attack in which he said he wanted to “destroy America” and referred to slain Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden as “beloved.”
He has been charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and attempting to support Al-Qaeda.
FBI acting assistant director Mary Galligan said the attempt to “destroy a landmark building and kill or maim untold numbers of innocent bystanders is about as serious as the imagination can conjure.” But the suspect never posed an immediate risk because two people he thought were his accomplices “were actually an FBI source and an FBI undercover agent.”
The Federal Reserve building, part of the network that makes up the U.S. central bank, houses one of the world’s largest gold deposits, consisting mostly of bullion belonging to other countries.
The criminal complaint alleges that Nafis had proposed several other possible targets, including the nearby New York Stock Exchange and an unidentified high-ranking U.S. official.
The actual plot appeared to go forward smoothly for the alleged bomber, since every step of the way he was being helped by the undercover agents.
Early Wednesday, Nafis and an agent went by van to a warehouse in New York, prosecutors said, and the defendant said he was ready to carry out a suicide attack if his initial plan was thwarted. He then assembled the bomb inside the van with phony explosives taken from the warehouse, the complaint says.
The agent and Nafis then drove to the New York Federal Reserve Bank, with Nafis finishing preparations to the fake bomb, while measures were taken among law enforcement bodies to make sure the vehicle was not stopped prematurely.
Once at the bank, Nafis recorded a “video statement to the American public” in which he allegedly said: “‘We will not stop until we attain victory or martyrdom.’” Only then did he discovered that his alleged bomb was a dud.
“Nafis then repeatedly, but unsuccessfully, attempted to detonate the bomb, which had been assembled using the inert explosives provided by the undercover agent,” prosecutors said. He was arrested.
Loretta Lynch, U.S. attorney for the eastern district of New York, said: “The defendant came to this country intent on conducting a terrorist attack on U.S. soil. The defendant thought he was striking a blow to the American economy.
“He thought he was directing confederates and fellow believers. At every turn, he was wrong, and his extensive efforts to strike at the heart of the nation’s financial system were foiled.”