Feds: Queens man arrested in plot to attack Federal Reserve

Oct 17, 2012 Issues: Counterterrorism

Newsday -- by William Murphy

Federal authorities Wednesday arrested a 21-year-old Queens man after he tried to detonate "what he believed to be a 1,000-pound bomb" at the Federal Reserve in lower Manhattan, the Department of Justice announced.

Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis, a Bangladeshi national who entered the United States "in or about January," faces charges of attempting to provide material support to al-Qaida and attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, federal prosecutors said. He was expected in court later in the day.

"The explosives that he allegedly sought and attempted to use had been rendered inoperable by law enforcement and posed no threat to the public," U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch of the Eastern District said in a statement.

Nafis wanted to killed himself during the attack, but an undercover operative posing as a supporter convinced him that the al-Qaida leadership wanted him to use a remote-controlled device to set off the explosives.

A 21-page federal criminal complaint sketched the outlines of a plot that developed over a period of months, including a meeting between Nafis and an undercover operative in Central Park in July and meetings on at least two occasions in Queens hotel rooms.

The complaint said that those meetings were recorded by the undercover.

U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) said Nafis apparently was motivated by an al-Qaida magazine called Inspire.

"The FBI took him seriously," King said. "I don't know if he was smart or dumb. But anyone motivated to buy explosives to blow up the Federal Reserve in Lower Manhattan has to be taken seriously."

Nafis and the undercover picked up the explosives Wednesday from a warehouse outside Manhattan, and Nafis armed the supposedly explosive device before entering Manhattan, the complaint said.

The pair parked their van near the Federal Reserve building and walked to a nearby hotel, where Nafis put on sunglasses and videotaped a statement meant for the American public, the complaint said.

"We will not stop until we attain victory or Martyrdom," Nafis said, according to the complaint.

He then made telephone calls to a cellular phone planted inside the van that he thought would trigger the explosives, the complaint said. Agents entered the vehicle and confirmed the calls had been placed, and other agents then arrested Nafis, the complaint said.

"Attempting to destroy a landmark building and kill or maim untold numbers of innocent bystanders is about as serious as the imagination can conjure," FBI acting assistant director Mary Galligan said in a statement. "The defendant faces appropriately severe consequences. It is important to emphasize that the public was never at risk in this case, because two of the defendant's 'accomplices' were actually an FBI source and an FBI undercover agent. The FBI continues to place the highest priority on preventing acts of terrorism."