NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A 21-year-old student from Queens was arrested Wednesday after allegedly being caught trying to detonate a fake bomb as part of a plot to blow up the Federal Reserve Bank in lower Manhattan, officials said.
The suspect, identified as Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis, was arrested following a sting-type operation with undercover agents whom he began to communicate via Facebook, according to the criminal complaint.
Nafis, 21, is a Bangladeshi who lives in Jamaica, Queens. He was charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. He was being held without bail and, if convicted, faces life in prison.
1010 WINS’ Al Jones Reports
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.
Nafis allegedly sought out al-Qaida operatives, but instead recruited an FBI source.
CBS News Senior Correspondent John Miller reported Nafis was involved in an online forum with al-Qaida sympathizers, expressing a desire for an attack that would have a significant impact on the U.S. economy, Miller said. Over the forum, the suspect was introduced to a source for the FBI, who got an undercover agent involved, Miller reported.
Authorities said that Nafis proposed several targets for his attack, including a high-ranking U.S. official and the New York Stock Exchange, before settling on the Federal Reserve Bank.
According to the indictment, in one meeting in July he told an informant, “I don’t want something that’s like, small. I just want something big, something very big. Very very very very big, that will shake the whole country.”
According to authorities, Nafis traveled to the U.S. in January intending to conduct an attack and tried to recruit people within the U.S. to help him carry out his plan.
That undercover agent posed as an al-Qaida facilitator, authorities said, and supplied Nafis with 20 50-pound bags of purported explosive. Authorities said Nafis meticulously went about the process of purchasing the other components for a bomb, including a detonator, and assembled what he believed would be a functional device.
Nafis also told an FBI confidential human source that all Muslims and Muslim sheikhs in the United States are “Talafi,” meaning not true Muslims, according to the criminal complaint.
The suspect also expressed admiration for “Sheikh O,” which authorities said they understood to be Osama Bin Laden, according to the criminal complaint.
In fact, Nafis also quoted “[O]ur beloved Sheikh Osama bin Laden” in an article he had allegedly written and provided to an undercover to justify that his plot would likely involve the killing of women and children, believing it would appear in an al-Qaida publication.
According to officials, Nafis and an undercover agent drove together in a van carrying the “device,” packed with fake explosives, to the bank Wednesday morning. During the trip, Nafis allegedly told the undercover operative he had a “Plan B” of acting as a suicide bomber in case the plot was interrupted by police.
The two parked the van in front of the bank and walked to a nearby hotel, where Nafis allegedly recorded a video in which he said, “We will not stop until we attain victory or martyrdom,” authorities said.
Nafis then repeatedly dialed a phone number he thought would detonate the explosive, according to authorities.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the bank was not Nafis’ first choice to carry out an attack.
“He goes to the New York Stock Exchange, he sees that there’s significant security there and he shifts his target to the Federal Reserve Bank,” Kelly told reporters, including 1010 WINS’ Al Jones.
“Al-Qaida 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,” Kelly said. “After 11 years without a successful attack, it’s understandable if the public becomes complacent. But that’s a luxury law enforcement can’t afford. Vigilance is our watchword now and into the foreseeable future.”
“As alleged in the complaint, the defendant came to this country intent on conducting a terrorist attack on U.S. soil, and worked with single-minded determination to carry out his plan,” said U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch.
“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,” said FBI Acting Assistant Director-in-Charge Mary Galligan. “It is important to emphasize that the public was never at risk in this case, because two of the defendants’ ‘accomplices’ were actually an FBI source and an FBI undercover agent. The FBI continues to place the highest priority on preventing acts of terrorism.”
As Kelly stated, the foiled bombing attempt by Nafis is the 15th attempted terror attack against New York since 2001, including a failed 2007 plot to bomb fuel lines at John F. Kennedy Airport, a plot that ended with four men were arrested.
Four more were busted in 2009 with plans to bomb two New York synagogues. The closest call came in 2010 when a smoking car bomb was discovered in Times Square. The bomb was disarmed before it detonated.
“We are the number one terrorist target in the country, if not in the world,” said Rep. Peter King. “We have to be very concerned about who comes into this country. We have to be concerned about people living here. We’re at war and so many people forget that.”
Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below …