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Neighbors in Jamaica knew little of alleged terrorist

TimesLedger Newspapers

The day after a young Bangladeshi man was arrested following his alleged attempt to detonate a phony bomb in downtown Manhattan, neighbors on the block where he lived in Jamaica said they knew very little, if anything at all, about him.

Mohammad Chowdry and his family live just above Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis’ second-floor apartment on 93rd Avenue.

Nafis, 21, was arrested Wednesday morning after he parked a van outside the Federal Reserve Bank on Liberty Street with a fake bomb provided to him by an undercover law-enforcement officer through an FBI sting operation, authorities said.

“I’ve seen him a couple of times, like three or four times,” Chowdry said Wednesday. “When I work nights, sometimes I come late like 3:30, 4:00. So one day I open the door around 3:30 a.m. and he’s coming down. He is going out at that time. We just say, ‘Hello, hi.’”

Chowdry said Nafis was living by himself in a neighborhood which is home to many ethnic Bangladeshis, and that nothing about the young man really stood out to him as suspicious.

“I was shocked. I’m really shocked,” he said. “He’s very young. When I heard that, I feel like I don’t believe that guy is doing that thing.”

Nafis was ordered detained Wednesday after U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch for the Eastern District in Brooklyn announced he faced charges of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and attempting to provide material support to al-Qaeda, the terrorist group.

Nafis came to the United States on a student visa in January, according to a criminal complaint filed by the U.S. attorney’s office, and was living in New York City earlier this summer when he allegedly tried to recruit a confidential FBI source with his plan to wage jihad on America, according to authorities.

Nafis told the source he was considering an attack on targets such as the New York Stock Exchange or a high-ranking government official.

“What I really mean, is that I don’t want something that’s like, small. I just want something big. Something very big,” authorities said he told the source. “Very very, very, very big, that will shake the whole country, that will make America, not one step ahead, change of policy, and make one step ahead, for the Muslims . . . that will make us one step closer to run the whole world . . . .”

Most who passed by his home Thursday said they did not know him at all.

Melvin Ramcherem, who has lived in the neighborhood for 20 years, said many of the buildings on Nafis’ block were built within the past few years and many of the neighbors were new.

The FBI said its New York Field Office’s Joint Terrorism Task Force had monitored Nafis since July and an undercover agent supplied him with the 1,000 pounds of fake explosive materials.

After the two drove into the city, they parked the van outside the Federal Reserve and went to a nearby hotel, where Nafis allegedly tried several times to set off the fake bomb with a detonator relayed to his cell phone, according to the complaint.

Just outside the door of Nafis’ next-door neighbor hangs an American flag.

Chowdry, the man who lives above him, said the neighbors put the flag up because their son is in the Army.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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