Bangladeshi held in plot to bomb N.Y. Federal Reserve
A 21-year-old Bangladeshi national was arrested Wednesday morning and accused of traveling to the United States to establish an al-Qaeda cell and bomb the Federal Reserve Bank in Lower Manhattan, according to court documents.
Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis is being charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and attempting to provide material support to al-Qaeda.
U.S. authorities say he traveled to the United States in January to recruit a terror cell and attack a major target, which included the New York Fed, the New York Stock Exchange or a top U.S. official, who was not identified.
Nafis, who lives on Long Island, allegedly met with an undercover FBI agent who provided him with inert explosives. Authorities say Nafis assembled the device in a New York-area warehouse, armed it as the agent drove to the bank building and then tried to detonate the dummy bomb early Wednesday from a nearby hotel, where he was arrested.
Update at 7:30 p.m. ET: At a news conference, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Nafis, who lives in the Queens section of New York, entered the country on a student visa to study in Missouri. He did not identify the school or say whether Nafis ever traveled to Missouri.
During a July 5 phone call to an FBI informant, Nafis said he came here to wage “jihad,” according to the criminal complaint. He told the informant he admired “Sheik ‘O'” and read a magazine he referred to as “I,” apparently referring to Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaeda magazine Inspire. He also said was in contact with another person in the United States and a “brother” in Bangladesh.
In subsequent recorded calls during the next 10 days, some of them with an undercover FBI agent, Nafis said he “had contacts with al-Qaeda members overseas who could assist the group,” according to the criminal complaint. In late July Nafis met another undercover agent in Central Park and said he “wished to launch a terrorist attack against the United States.” He mentioned attacking “a military base in Baltimore with one guard standing outside,” but then “proposed to attack more than a single individual.”
On Aug. 5, the FBI says, Nafis proposed the stock exchange as a possible target, and the next day he was seen near the NYSE taking notes.
In an Aug. 11 meeting with an undercover agent in a Queen hotel, Nafis discussed a suicide attack on the stock exchange, “either contained in one or more cars, or strapped to his person,” the complaint says. “We are going to need a lot of TNT or dynamite,” he was recorded saying.
Authorities later tracked him through a Facebook account, now deleted, and other social media.
The co-conspirator in the United States — identified only as “Yaqueen” — was arrested on non-terrorism-related felony charges, the complaint says. That person is “not a government agent.”
Update at 5:34 p.m. ET: In his initial court appearance, Nafis was ordered held without bail.
Update at 4:36 p.m. ET: The FBI says Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis met the bureau’s undercover agent early this morning and traveled in a van to a warehouse located in the New York metro region. He reportedly told the agent that if police thwarted the attack on the Federal Reserve, his “Plan B” was a suicide bombing.
At the warehouse, Nafis made the bomb, consisting of inert explosives, then assembled the detonator and armed the device in the van as the undercover agent drove to the Fed, the FBI says. They parked next to the bank, on Liberty Street, and walked to a nearby hotel, where Nafis recorded a video statement to the American public that he intended to release after the attack.