A bloodthirsty Al Qaeda wanna-be was busted Wednesday after setting out to blow up the Federal Reserve Bank in lower Manhattan with a bogus 1,000-pound bomb he built with the help of undercover FBI agents, officials said.
Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis, 21, a Bangladeshi national living in Jamaica, Queens, boasted he wanted to ?destroy America? and professed admiration for ?our beloved Sheikh Osama Bin Laden,? federal authorities said.
Nafis only opted for attacking the Federal Reserve after exploring an assassination attempt on President Obama, a source told the Daily News. He also scrapped a plan to bomb the New York Stock Exchange after saying he needed ?to make sure that this building is gone,? according to a criminal complaint.
?We will not stop until we attain victory or martyrdom,? he threatened in a videotape he intended to release after detonating what he thought was a massive bomb, authorities said.
As he recorded the video, Nafis covered his face, wore sunglasses and disguised his voice, the feds said in court records.
City top cop Raymond Kelly, whose detectives assisted the FBI in foiling Nafis? doomsday mission, said the suspected terrorist came here with ?the avowed purpose of committing some sort of jihad in the United States.?
Federal officials also revealed he was intent on assembling an Al Qaeda cell here to assist him in reaching his psychopathic goal.
Kelly scoffed at the assertion Nafis? murderous scheme was purely aspirational.
?That goes way past aspirational to me,? the NYPD commissioner said of allegations Nafis obtained 50 20-pound bags of ammonium nitrate to build his car bomb.
A source described the intended bomb as similar to the one used in the first World Trade Center attack in 1993.
Nafis allegedly assembled the bomb early Wednesday at a Long Island warehouse, pouring what he thought were real explosives into bags and trash bins, then packing them in a Chevy Astro van, the complaint shows.
While en route to his target, Nafis bragged to his accomplice ? the FBI informant ? that he had devised a ?Plan B? to conduct a suicide bombing operation if cops thwarted his diabolical Federal Reserve attack.
?Before entering Manhattan, Nafis armed the purported explosive device for detonation by turning on the cellular phone to be used in the detonator, installing the battery in the detonator and connecting the wires linking the detonator to the purported explosive materials,? the criminal complaint details.
On the ride in, Nafis also revealed his jihadist views were shaped, in part, by the videotaped sermons of Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born Yemeni imam and top Al Qaeda recruiter killed by a U.S. drone attack.
?What we know is that Awlaki was a motivator for this person,? Kelly said.
On Tuesday night, he told the FBI informant he wanted the bombing ?to happen, no matter what.?
Officials said they have recorded phone conversations of Nafis plotting the attack and had installed video surveillance cameras at the warehouse where he stored his explosives.
Nafis drove the bomb in the van and parked it next to the Federal Reserve on Liberty St., officials said. The feds had already alerted the NYPD?s counterterrorism officers in lower Manhattan not to stop the van or prevent it from parking outside the Federal Reserve, officials said.
He then went to the nearby Millenium Hilton Hotel on Church St., where he checked into a room and recorded the video taking responsibility for the attack he was about to commit, a source told The News.
FBI agents arrested him at 8:12 a.m. in the hotel room, after he repeatedly attempted to use a cell phone to detonate the bomb he thought was real, the complaint charges. The source noted that Nafis could not see the Federal Reserve from the hotel room.
?After completing the video, Nafis repeatedly attempted to detonate the purported bomb by placing multiple telephone calls to the cellular telephone which he had installed as the initiating device for the detonator,? the complaint reads.
Following Nafis? arrest, FBI agents entered the van and confirmed the detonator had indeed been activated.
?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,? said Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch.
?The defendant thought he was striking a blow to the American economy,? Lynch said. ?He thought he was directing confederates and fellow believers. At every turn, he was wrong.?
Nafis intended to return to Bangladesh after pulling off the bombing ?to obtain training from Al Qaeda,? he told the FBI informant, according to the complaint.
Since arriving in the United States in January on a student visa, Nafis researched several possible targets, including the New York Stock Exchange, officials said.
?Nafis explained that he needed a big car with lots of fruits and vegetables in there which can blow up the whole New York Stock Exchange building,? the complaint charges, explaining fruits and vegetables meant explosives.
He even thought about attacking a high-ranking U.S. official, and that official was identified as President Obama, a source said.
?You know what, this election might even stop,? he allegedly said of disrupting the presidential campaign.
He ultimately settled on striking the Federal Reserve, believing it was the most efficient way to cripple America?s economy.
?He goes to the New York Stock Exchange. He sees that there?s significant security there and he shifts his target to the Federal Reserve Bank,? Kelly said.
Mary Galligan, the FBI?s acting assistant director in New York, said Nafis had no qualms about killing or maiming ?untold numbers of innocent bystanders.?
?The defendant faces appropriately severe consequences,? Galligan said.
During his arraignment Wednesday afternoon in Brooklyn Federal Court, a bearded Nafis wore a brown T-shirt and sneakers. He answered ?yes? twice in a low voice when asked by Magistrate Judge Roanne Mann if he understood the charges against him.
Nafis is accused of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and attempting to provide material support to Al Qaeda. He faces life in prison if convicted.
Galligan insisted the public was never at risk because the explosives Nafis had accumulated with the help of an undercover FBI agent and an FBI source posing as his accomplices were inert.
But Nafis apparently believed he was on a mass killing mission up to the point he tried to set off the bomb.
?Nafis devised this attack plan himself and came to the United States for the purpose of carrying out such an attack,? said Assistant Attorney General for National Security Lisa Monaco.
In a written statement claiming responsibility, Nafis, quoted ?our beloved Sheikh Osama Bin Laden,? mastermind of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that happened three blocks from the Federal Reserve.
Officials believe he expressed admiration for Bin Laden to justify killing women and children.
It was not immediately clear if Nafis has any legitimate ties to Al Qaeda.
He also wrote an article he hoped would be published in the Al Qaeda-backed magazine, Inspire, after he committed the bombing.
In the article, he wrote, ?All I had in my mind are how to destroy America … I came up to this conclusion that targeting America?s economy is most efficient way to draw the path of obliteration of America.?
He also revealed in the article that he had thoroughly researched the Federal Reserve Bank, noting it is the ?most influential of the 12 regional Federal Reserve banks.?
?New York Federal Reserve Bank implements monetary policy, supervises and regulates financial institutions and helps maintain the nation?s payment system,? Nafis wrote.
The sting on Nafis was conducted with the help of the Joint Terrorism Task Force and the NYPD.
The FBI first learned of Nafis? villainous plan in early summer, when he contacted a confidential FBI source he thought was an Al Qaeda sympathizer, the complaint alleges.
The FBI informant claimed Nafis called on July 5, claiming he had come to the United States to ?wage jihad.? Nafis also told the informant that all Muslims and Muslim sheikhs in the United States were ?talafi,? the Arabic word to describe people who are not true Muslims.
He called America ?dar al-harb,? which means ?land of war? in Arabic, the complaint charges. He also fondly referred to Bin Laden as ?Sheikh O,? the complaint claims.
The FBI source told investigators that Nafis claimed he was in communication with a co-conspirator in the the United States and another ?brother? in Bangladesh.
In subsequent phone calls to the FBI informant, Nafis repeatedly confirmed his commitment to carrying out an attack on the Financial District. He also said he was ?excited? about detonating a bomb remotely because such an ability ?would allow him to conduct additional terrorist attacks on U.S. soil,? the complaint charges.
Nafis met with the FBI informant on Oct. 4 and took him to the warehouse he allegedly believed was suitable for storing explosives. Prior to the meeting, Nafis had already obtained batteries and other electrical components to use in making his bomb, according to court records.
Nafis later came into contact with an FBI undercover agent posing as an Al Qaeda facilitator. At the suspect?s request, the undercover agent supplied him with 20 50-pound bags of material he thought were explosives.
?We need to make a very concrete plan,? Nafis told the informant, explaining he wanted to scout out the Federal Reserve, according to the complaint.
On Oct. 12, the informant arranged for Nafis to pick up the explosives and transport them to the warehouse, the court records say.
By Oct. 15, Nafis told the informant he was ready to put his plan into action and picked Oct. 17 as the date.
The Nafis the world met Wednesday is unlike the Nafis who enrolled for the spring semester at Southeast Missouri State University, according to people who knew him for the short time he spent there. That Nafis, they recalled, was a devout Muslim who gave himself to prayer and charity.
Fellow students said that in his short time at the school he became vice president of the Muslim Student Association.
?He taught me to be a better Muslim,? student Dion Duncan, 21, told The News, adding that Nafis also did charity work and collected backpacks for underprivileged kids.
?He prayed five times a day,? Duncan said. ?Sometimes he would stay later to pray. He was very strict in his religion. I had no idea he would do something like this.?
School spokeswoman Ann Hayes said Nafis dropped out and later requested that his records be transferred to another institution, which she refused to identify.
While attending Southeast Missouri, Nafis pursued a degree in cybersecurity, Hayes said. She also said that when his records were transferred, the university followed federal Homeland Security protocol dealing with the movements of foreign students.
?I?d see him in a group. He used to greet you when he passed by,? said Syed Saqib Hussain, an engineering student at the Cape Girardeau, Mo., college. ?He was a normal guy.?
Mushfiqur Rahman, a sophomore at the school, said he spoke to Nafis several times, but mostly about religion.
?We chitchatted about the Islamic religion,? Rahman said. ?He said he was very passionate about the Islamic religion in a positive way. He kept to himself and was very reserved.?
Nafis also attended the Islamic Center in Cape Girardeau, where members expressed shock and outrage over his alleged mass murder plan.
?Our religion teaches us mercy for all mankind,? said Moussa Wadi, 52. ?I don?t think killing is mercy for mankind.?
A source told The News that Nafis had recently enrolled in an undisclosed vocational school in New York.
On Wednesday, a small army of FBI agents and cops swarmed Nafis? second-floor apartment on 93rd Ave. in Jamaica, carting out boxes of potential evidence.
Nafis? landlord, Rafiqul Islam, 47, a computer system engineer who lives on the ground floor, said the suspect showed up about six weeks ago to live with tenant Shamim Khan. Islam said he believes Nafis is ?some kind of cousin? to Khan?s wife.
Islam said Khan ? who also shares the apartment with a 3-year-old daughter and his father-in-law ? assured him that Nafis would only be staying with him for about a month as he looked for a permanent place to live.
?He was quiet, a relatively normal person,? Islam said of the suspect.
?That scares me. Nothing was terribly wrong on his face,? Islam said. ?I feel very scared. I was living here in my apartment with my wife and daughter and son.?
He described Khan as a ?good tenant.?
Commissioner Kelly said Nafis? planned sabotage was the 15th terrorist plot in the city thwarted by law enforcement since the 9/11 attacks.
?Al Qaeda operatives and those they have inspired have tried time and again to make New York City their killing field,? Kelly said. ?After 11 years without a successful attack, it?s understandable if the public becomes complacent. But that?s a luxury law enforcement can?t afford.?
Sen. Chuck Schumer praised law enforcement officials for blunting a ?new wave of terrorism.?
?Fortunately, our law enforcement officials are getting better and better at figuring out who the terrorists are, listening in, and stopping attacks before they happen,? Schumer said.
?The new terrorists are people who are influenced by radical Islamists who preach destruction, but act on their own,? Schumer added. ?They are inspired by Al Qaeda?s ranting, but not directed by them. The good news is that they are not very proficient; the bad news is that there are more of them.?
THE JOURNEY TO JIHAD
January 2012 ? Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis, a Bangladeshi citizen, entered the United States on a student visa.
Spring 2012 ? Attended Missouri Southern State University and then requested his credits be transferred.
July 6, 2012 ? Nafis told undercover FBI agent he is in New York and wanted to recruit others for ?martyrdom.?
July 12 ? Nafis told undercover and a co-conspirator that he has contacts with al-Qaeda members overseas who could assist in attacking President Obama, sources told the Daily News.
Aug. 5 ? Nafis told undercover he is considering New York Stock Exchange as target.
Aug. 11 ? Nafis met with undercover in hotel room in Queens about blowing up New York Stock Exchange
Early September ? Jamaica, Queens landlord says Nafis began couch-surfing at his tenant?s apartment.
Sept. 27 ? Nafis tells undercover he hopes his attack will disrupt upcoming presidential elections.
October? Nafis amassed items for explosive device such as batteries and other electrical components, and large garbage bins.
Oct. 12 ? Nafis and the undercover unloaded what suspect believed were 20 50-pound bags of explosives into a trailer.
Oct. 13 ? Nafis and undercover scouted the Financial District
Oct. 17 ? Nafis met with the undercover early in the morning and assembled what he believed was a 1,000-pound explosive device inside a vehicle, then drove it to the Federal Reserve Bank. The two men walked to a nearby hotel where Nafis repeatedly attempted to detonate the fake bomb, and was arrested.