The FBI on Wednesday arrested a Bangladeshi man in a sting operation on charges he attempted to blow up the New York Federal Reserve Bank with what he believed was a 1,000-pound (450-kg) bomb, federal authorities said.
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, the US department of justice said in a statement. If convicted, he faces life in prison.
The FBI said the public was not in danger because the explosives provided to Nafis were never in working condition and the suspect was closely monitored by the undercover agent — highlighting a script law enforcement has employed several times this year in similar cases including one in Washington and another in Ohio.
“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 Mary Galligan, FBI acting assistant director-in-charge. “The defendant faces appropriately severe consequences.”
According to the criminal complaint, Nafis travelled to the US in January 2012. Once in New York, he claimed to be in contact with al Qaeda members overseas although federal agents found no evidence that he was working for al Qaeda or that he was directed by the organisation.
Nafis considered several targets for his attack, including the New York Stock Exchange and high-ranking government official, who the source identified as President Barack Obama.
In the end, Nafis decided to focus on the Federal Reserve Bank in lower Manhattan. To create a cell to help him carry out the bombing, Nafis began to seek out recruits, eventually bringing on board an undercover agent working for the FBI.
The two met on Wednesday morning and travelled by van to a New York warehouse where Nafis assembled what he thought was a 1,000-pound bomb before driving to the Federal Reserve bank among the most secure and guarded buildings in Manhattan. He was arrested as he repeatedly attempted to detonate the inert bomb.