A Bangladeshi student, who came to the U.S. allegedly to wage Jihad, was arrested Wednesday after he attempted to blow up a 1,000-pound fake bomb outside the Federal Reserve building in Manhattan, the FBI said in a statement.
Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis, 21, was trapped by the FBI in an elaborate sting operation after he parked a van, which he believed was laden with explosives, outside the Federal Reserve Building near the New York Stock Exchange and attempted to blow up the building with a cell phone detonator, according to the statement.
An undercover FBI agent posing as an al Qaeda facilitator met Nafis, who expressed his intention to “destroy America” and sought help from the agent who he believed would help him connect to the terrorist group to carry out the attack in the U.S.
The agent provided him inert materials for the bomb and a cell phone that the attacker believed was rigged to detonate the bomb.
“The arrest of Nafis was the culmination of an undercover operation during which he was closely monitored by the FBI New York Field Office’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, or JTTF. The explosives that he allegedly sought and attempted to use had been rendered inoperable by law enforcement and posed no threat to the public,” said the statement.
Nafis assembled the bomb in a warehouse and attached the detonator. Later he, along with an undercover agent, parked the vehicle in front of the Federal Reserve Bank and then went to a hotel nearby to record a video statement in which he said: “We will not stop until we attain victory or martyrdom.”
He made futile attempts to detonate the bomb after which he was arrested by JTTF agents.
According to the criminal complaint filed Wednesday in the Eastern District of New York, Nafis traveled to the United States in January under the guise of a cyber security student for the purpose of conducting a terrorist attack on the U.S. soil. Before plotting the bomb attack, Nafis attempted to form a terrorist cell in the United States. Nafis, who reported having overseas connections to al Qaeda, also actively sought out al Qaeda contacts within the U.S. to assist him in carrying out an attack, the complaint said.
However, the complaint said that he was a lone actor in the plot.
“As alleged in the criminal complaint, Rezwanul Nafis devised this attack plan himself and came to the United States for the purpose of carrying out such an attack. I thank all those responsible for ensuring that his alleged plans never came to fruition,” said Lisa Monaco, Assistant Attorney General for National Security.
The complaint alleges that Nafis had proposed several targets for his attack, including the New York Stock Exchange, and also plotted to kill a high-ranking U.S. official that the authorities believe could be President Obama, before planning the foiled bomb attack, the Daily Mail reported.
Authorities said that before the attack, Nafis had written a statement intended to claim responsibility for the terrorist bombing of the Federal Reserve Bank on behalf of al Qaeda. He wrote that he wanted to “destroy America” and that he believed the most efficient way to accomplish this goal was to target America’s economy.
“Attempting to destroy a landmark building and kill or maim untold numbers of innocent bystanders is about as serious as the imagination can conjure. The defendant faces appropriately severe consequences,” FBI Acting Assistant Director Mary E Galligan said.
In the statement, NYPD Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said that New York was still the primary target for the terrorists’ attacks. “Al Qaeda operatives and those they have inspired have tried time and again to make New York City their killing field. We are up to 15 plots and counting since 9/11, with the Federal Reserve now added to a list of iconic targets that previously included the Brooklyn Bridge, the New York Stock Exchange and Citicorp Center."
Nafis is charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and attempting to provide material support to al Qaeda. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of a life sentence.