Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis, 21, faces charges of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and attempting to provide material support to al-Qaeda.
Nafis was arrested yesterday morning following an extensive undercover operation during which he was closely monitored by the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF).
The explosives that he allegedly sought and attempted to use had been rendered inoperable by the law enforcement agency.
Cops guarding Federal Reserve Building in New York. Photo: AFP
He faces a maximum penalty of life imprisonment if convicted. Nafis appeared in federal court in Brooklyn to face charges and was ordered to be held without bail. He did not enter a plea.
According to the criminal complaint filed in the Eastern District of New York, Nafis came to the US in January this year to carry out a terrorist attack on American soil. Nafis allegedly has overseas connections to al-Qaeda and attempted to recruit individuals to form a terrorist cell in the country. He also actively sought out other al-Qaeda contacts in the US to help him carry out a terror attack.
One of the individuals he had attempted to recruit was a source for the FBI and through the investigation, FBI agents and New York Police Department detectives were able to closely monitor Nafis as he attempted to implement his plan.
Nafis had zeroed in on several targets for his attack, including a high-ranking US official and the New York Stock Exchange.
He finally decided to bomb the New York Federal Reserve Bank in lower Manhattan's financial district.
In a written statement intended to claim responsibility for the bombing on behalf of al-Qaeda, Nafis said he wanted to "destroy America" and believed that the most efficient way to accomplish this goal was to target America's economy.
In his statement, he also included quotations from "beloved Sheikh Osama bin Laden" to justify the fact that the attack would involve killing of women and children.
US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Loretta Lynch said Nafis came to the US with the intent of conducting a terrorist attack 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," Lynch said.
During the investigation, Nafis came into contact with an FBI undercover agent who posed as an al-Qaeda facilitator.
At Nafis' request, the undercover agent supplied Nafis with 20 50-pound bags of purported explosives. Nafis then allegedly worked to store the material and assemble the explosive device for his attack. He purchased components for the bomb's detonator and conducted surveillance for his attack on multiple occasions in the city's financial district in lower Manhattan.
Throughout his interactions with the undercover agent, Nafis repeatedly asserted that the plan was his own and was the reason he had come to the United States. Nafis met the undercover agent yesterday morning and travelled in a van to a warehouse located in the Eastern District of New York.
He explained to the undercover agent that he had a "Plan B" that involved conducting a suicide bombing operation in case his planned attack is thwarted by the police. On arriving at the warehouse, Nafis assembled what he believed to be a 1,000-pound bomb inside the van.
While he and the undercover agent drove to the New York Federal Reserve Bank, Nafis armed the purported bomb by assembling the detonator and attaching it to the explosives.
Nafis and the undercover agent parked the van next to the New York Federal Reserve Bank building, exited the van and walked to a nearby hotel where Nafis recorded a video statement to the American public that he intended to release in connection with the attack.
During this video statement, Nafis stated, "we will not stop until we attain victory or martyrdom". Nafis then repeatedly, but unsuccessfully, attempted to detonate the bomb, which had been assembled using the inert explosives provided by the undercover agent. He was arrested immediately after he attempted to detonate the bomb. NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly said al-Qaeda operatives have made repeated attempts 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," he said. FBI Acting Assistant Director in Charge Galligan 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".