The FBI has arrested a 21-year-old Bangladeshi national they say intended to blow up the Federal Reserve Bank in Lower Manhattan this morning, only a few blocks from where the World Trade Center once stood.
The man, identified as Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis, is reported to have conspired with undercover officers working for both the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the New York Police Department in an effort to blow up the bank branch, but local network NBC 4 says the public was never at risk. On Wednesday afternoon, he was charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and attempting to provide material support to al-Qaeda, Reuters reports.
Authorities allegedly provided the man with fake explosives and assisted him in constructing the foiled plot after online posts he is thought to have authored referenced jihad. The complaint also includes quotes attributed to the suspect that reference former al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
Nafis was arrested early Wednesday after he attempted to detonate what he thought was a 1,000 pound bomb inside of a vehicle near the New York Federal Reserve Bank on Liberty Street in the city’s financial district.
A criminal complaint filed in court on Wednesday suggests that Nafis traveled to the United States in January with the purpose of waging a terrorist attack. The document alleges that he had considered other targets before settling on the Fed branch, and even debated harming an unnamed, high-ranking US official.
“Attempting to destroy a landmark building and kill or maim untold numbers of innocent bystanders is about as serious as the imagination can conjure. 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,” FBI Acting Assistant Director Mary Galligan tells reporters, WABC News reports.
Although the latest incident is the most recent attempted terror plot hatched at least in part by the FBI, it is far from the first. Months earlier in May, FBI agents arrested five men from the Cleveland, Ohio area that they said were orchestrating a plan to bomb the Valley View Bridge, a 4,150-foot roadway that stretches across the Cuyahoga River. In that case, authorities argued that the accused men expressed “intent on using violence to express their ideological views,” although the idea of bombing the bridge was admittedly introduced to them by an undercover informant working on behalf of the agency.
“I could show you” how to bring down the bridge, the informant told members of the alleged terror ring after infiltrating their circle. The source then offered to help the group purchase explosives.
An report done last year by Mother Jones and the Investigative Reporting Program at the University of California-Berkley revealed that the FBI has as many as 15,000 undercover agents working within the bureau. Of the roughly 500 prosecutions in recent years relating to terrorism charges, the FBI used informants for about half of them, the report suggested. Of 158 of prosecutions that ended in convictions, around one-third relied on direct involvement from federal agent provocateurs.