Federal authorities on Wednesday arrested a man they say was plotting to blow up the Federal Reserve building in New York City, just blocks from the World Trade Center site.
Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis, 21, was arrested in a sting operation Wednesday morning after he parked a van filled with what he believed were explosives outside the building and tried to detonate it in a suicide mission, according to officials.
Earlier in the day, he went to a warehouse and assembled what he believed to be a 1,000-pound bomb using inert explosives provided by his “associates.” He also recorded a videotaped statement in which he said, “We will not stop until we attain victory or martyrdom,” federal prosecutors said.
But his “associates” were actually undercover officers who arrested him at the scene — and the bomb was not real.
Authorities said Nafis proposed several spots for his attack, including the New York Stock Exchange — and that in a written letter taking responsibility for the Federal Reserve job he was about to carry out, he said he wanted to “destroy America.”
The Bangladeshi native reported having overseas connections to al-Qaeda, and traveled to the U.S. in January to carry out an attack, according to a complaint filed in federal court in Brooklyn. He was trying to recruit people, but one was a secret FBI source, and Nafis was closely monitored as he tried to act out his plot.
“Law enforcement officials stress that the plot was a sting operation monitored by the FBI and NYPD and the public was never at risk,” NBC 4 New York reports.
Nafis was awaiting a federal court hearing later Wednesday where he is facing a charge of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and attempting to provide material support for al-Qaeda.
“Attempting to destroy a landmark building and kill or maim untold numbers of innocent bystanders is about as serious as the imagination can conjure,” said FBI Acting Assistant Director Mary Galligan.
“The defendant faces appropriately severe consequences.”
UPDATE — U.S. Attorney Loretta E. Lynch from the Eastern District of New York issued the following statement concerning the alleged terror plot [via CNN]:
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.
The defendant thought he was striking a blow to the American economy. He thought he was directing confederates and fellow believers. At every turn, he was wrong, and his extensive efforts to strike at the heart of the nation’s financial system were foiled by effective law enforcement.
We will use all of the tools at our disposal to stop any such attack before it can occur. We are committed to protecting the safety of all Americans, including the hundreds of thousands who work in New York’s financial district.
UPDATE II — “Nafis, wearing street clothes and represented by a public defender, was arraigned … during a five-minute hearing in a New York courtroom. No bail application has been made. Prosecutors will have 30 days to officially indict him,” CNN reports.
Nafis will be held until further notice at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, according to U.S. attorneys.
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The Associated Press contributed to this breaking story. Front page photo from law enforcement.