NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — While giving the FBI and other law enforcement agencies credit for thwarting a bomb plot against the Federal Reserve Bank in Lower Manhattan on Wednesday, New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the threat of terrorism isn’t going away any time soon.
“I think this means that New York continues to be very much in the mind frame… of terrorists,” Kelly said. “This individual came here with the express purpose of committing a terrorist act. He was motivated by al-Qaida. So we see this threat as being with us for a long time.”
WCBS 880’s Jim Smith reports
The suspect, Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis, 21, was arrested following a sting-type operation with undercover agents whom he began to communicate via Facebook, according to a criminal complaint.
When he was captured Wednesday morning, Nafis was in the process of trying to detonate what he believed to be a 1,000-pound bomb in front of the Federal Reserve Bank on Liberty Street. Authorities said that there was never any actual danger to the public.
Kelly said from now on the Federal Reserve Bank will be watched more closely as a potential terror target.
“It makes the Federal Reserve Bank – it gives it a position, I should say – on our list of iconic targets here in New York City,” Kelly said.
He added that while the public might have become complacent since no successful terrorist attack has occurred in New York since Sept. 11, 2001, police and the FBI must remain vigilant.
While the bomb that Nafis tried to detonate was not real – it was built with the assistance of an undercover agent who posed as an al-Qaida facilitator – Kelly said that does not mean the public should be unconcerned.
“Clearly, if you read the complaint, what this shows is this individual came here for the purpose of doing a terrorist act,” Kelly said. “He came here in January of this year. He gets a student visa under the pretext of being a student in a college in Missouri, and he comes here again with the avowed purpose of committing some sort of jihad here in the United States. He goes to the New York Stock Exchange, he sees the significant security there, and he shifts his target to the Federal Reserve Bank.”
Kelly said Nafis’ plot was clearly far beyond the level of “aspirational.”
“I wouldn’t call it aspirational when you go and pick up 50 20-pound bags of ammonium nitrate, and you obtain a truck, and you bring it to the site of a major federal facility, and you try to detonate it,” Kelly said. “That goes way past aspirational to me.”
Kelly also pointed out that while American-born cleric and al-Qaida external operations leader Anwar al-Awlaki was killed in an American drone attack in Yemen last year, the online publication he left behind has been the inspiration for more than one would-be terrorist, including Nafis.
“We know that al-Awlaki was a motivator for this person,” Kelly said. “Inspire Magazine, which al-Awlaki was the prime mover behind, was the magazine, or the article that (Nafis) read that justified him in the killing of children, the killing of women.”
One specific article in the online publication said Nafis was apparently inspired by the same article as Jose Pimentel, the terror suspect who was arrested last year while in allegedly the process of making a pipe bomb.
“Pimentel used Inspire Magazine; used the article, ‘How to Build a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom,’ which is named in the complaint in this case too,” Kelly said.
And will life in New York be different on Thursday following Nafis’ arrest?
“We clearly change what we do on a daily basis, but we do devote significant resources to protecting the city,” Kelly said. “You’ll see a lot of police presence at facilities throughout the city. That’s what we do every day.”
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