A Bangladeshi man who came to the US to wage jihad was arrested in an elaborate FBI sting after attempting to blow up a fake car bomb outside the US Federal Reserve building in Manhattan, US authorities said.
Before trying to carry out the alleged terrorism plot, Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis went to a warehouse to help assemble a 453kg bomb using inert material, according to a criminal complaint.
Agents grabbed the 21-year-old Nafis — armed with a cellphone he believed was rigged as a detonator — after he made several attempts to blow up the bomb inside a vehicle parked next to the Fed, the complaint said.
Nafis appeared in federal court in Brooklyn to face charges of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and attempting to provide material support to al-Qaeda. He was ordered held without bail and did not enter a plea.
The defendant had sought assurances from an undercover agent posing as an al-Qaeda contact that the terrorist group would support the operation.
“The thing that I want to do, ask you about, is that, the thing I’m doing, it’s under al-Qaeda?” he was recorded saying during a meeting in a bugged hotel room in Queens, the complaint said.
However, there was no allegation that Nafis actually received training or direction from the terrorist group.
Prosecutors say Nafis traveled to the US on a student visa in January to carry out an attack. In July, he contacted a confidential informant, telling him he wanted to form a terror cell, the complaint said.
Nafis attended Southeast Missouri State University during the spring semester, which ran from January to May, university spokeswoman Ann Hayes told reporters. He was pursuing a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity.
“He seemed like a regular nice guy to me,” his neighbor, Jose Santos, said. “I’m just shocked right now to see that he tried to plant a 1,000-pound bomb. That’s crazy.”