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Jamaica man pleads in Federal Reserve bomb plot

This courtroom sketch shows Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis (c.) and his attorney, Heidi Cesare (l.), in Brooklyn federal court in October. Nafis pleaded guilty last week to planning to blow up the Federal Reserve bank in Manhattan. AP Photo/Elizabeth Williams
TimesLedger Newspapers

The young Bangladeshi man who attempted to blow up the Federal Reserve bank with a phony bomb supplied by the feds faces life in prison after he pleaded guilty last week to attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, the U.S. prosecutor handling the case said.

Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis, 21, had been in the country for several months on a student visa when, sometime during the summer, he moved to an apartment in Jamaica and began devising a plot that would “destroy America.”

“As today’s guilty plea shows, the defendant came to this country not to further his studies, but to advance the goals of jihad,” U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said Feb. 7. “Once here, he devoted his energies to refining his plan to disrupt the U.S. economy and kill Americans and attempting to recruit others to join him.”

In October, Nafis was arrested shortly after he, alongside an undercover agent, drove a van into downtown Manhattan and attempted to detonate what he thought was a 1,000-pound bomb with his cellphone.

He came to the country last January and spent a semester at Southeast Missouri State University, but the federal prosecutor said Nafis brought with him bomb-making instructions and speeches by Anwar al-Awlaki, head of al-Qaeda in Yemen, who was killed in a 2011 drone attack.

Once he moved to New York, Nafis attempted to recruit one of the FBI’s confidential sources, and federal agents along with the NYPD started monitoring the young man.

Lynch said that for several months the FBI agent posed as an al-Qaeda operative and observed Nafis as he planned his deadly plot with “diligence and determination.”

“Ultimately, he resolved to commit mass murder in downtown Manhattan through an attack on the New York Federal Reserve Bank, a symbol of America’s economy,” Lynch said.

On Oct. 17, Nafis parked the van loaded with 1,000 pounds of fake explosives and went to a nearby hotel, where he recorded a video stating, “We will not stop until we attain victory or martyrdom.”

Agents with the FBI’s and NYPD’s Joint Terrorism Task Force arrested him soon after he tried several times to blow up the device with his cellphone.

“Nafis is just one of the more recent examples of individuals charged in terrorist plots against targets in New York City,” Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said. “There have been 16 plots against the city that we know of since the World Trade Center Twin Towers were destroyed in 2001.

“Time and again, individuals intent on making a violent terrorist statement select New York City as their venue. That’s why, as in many other cases, the NYPD cooperated closely with federal prosecutors and the Joint Terrorism Task Force of the FBI to bring Nafis to justice.”

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

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