A Bangladeshi man arrested in October after attempting to bomb the New York Federal Reserve pleaded guilty to a terrorism charge.
Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis, 21, entered his plea today before U.S. District Judge Carol Bagley Amon in Brooklyn, New York, to attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction.
Nafis, who had come to the U.S. on a student visa, tried to detonate what he believed to be a 1,000-pound bomb at the Fed in Lower Manhattan, according to prosecutors. The explosives were fake and the plot was part of an undercover operation, according to court papers.
“I am the person who chose to bomb the Federal Reserve Bank,” Nafis said in court, making clear that it was his intention, not federal agents’, to carry out the plot. “I no longer support violent jihad.”
He faces a possible sentence of 30 years to life in prison under his plea agreement, the judge said.
The federal government has expanded the use of sting tactics in terrorism investigations in recent years, according to a report by the Center on Law and Security at the New York University School of Law.
Almost half of federal terrorism cases brought in the U.S. from 2009 to September 2011 involved informants, and at least 15 percent of those cases can be considered stings, representatives from the center said in its Terrorism Trial Report Card.
Prosecutors alleged Nafis came to New York from Bangladesh with a desire to wage what he called “jihad” through a suicide bombing or other violent attack. In July, he made contact with an informant for the Federal Bureau of Investigation who referred him to federal agents posing as members of al-Qaeda, according to court papers.
In a meeting in Central Park in July, Nafis told one of the agents that he wanted to engage in an attack and that he, the informant and another associate were “ready for action,” according to court papers.
Nafis later told the informant that the attack was going to be a “one-man job,” indicating that he didn’t want the others to participate, prosecutors alleged. Nafis worked with an agent from a warehouse in an undisclosed location to prepare for the bombing, according to prosecutors.
Before attempting the attack, Nafis gave the agent a thumb drive containing an article he had written that he hoped would appear in “Inspire” magazine, a publication affiliated with al-Qaeda, prosecutors alleged.
“I came to this conclusion that targeting America’s economy is most efficient way to draw the path of obliteration of America,” Nafis wrote, explaining his motivations for choosing the Fed as a target, according to court papers.
On the day of his arrest, Nafis and the agent took a vehicle loaded with the fake explosives, parked it at the Fed and then walked to a nearby hotel, according to the papers. Prosecutors alleged that Nafis asked the agent to film a video statement in which he said “we will not stop until we attain victory or martyrdom.”
Nafis then attempted to trigger the bomb remotely multiple times using a cellphone, according to the government.
“The defendant had no lawful authority with respect to using a weapon of mass destruction,” Assistant U.S. Attorney James P. Loonam said during today’s hearing.
Heidi Cesare, a lawyer for Nafis, told reporters at the proceeding that her client “pled guilty because he is guilty, and he wants to take responsibility for what he did.”
Nafis earlier was indicted on both a charge of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.
“With diligence and determination, Nafis attempted to carry out his plan in the name of al-Qaeda,” Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Loretta E. Lynch said in a statement. “We will not wait for our enemies to attack us before using the tools at our disposal to discourage, disrupt, and ultimately, detain them with lengthy terms of incarceration.”
The case is U.S. v. Nafis, 1:12-cr-00720, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).
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