By Rob Abruzzese
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A Bangladeshi man pleaded guilty Thursday in Brooklyn Federal Court to trying to blow up the Federal Reserve Bank in lower Manhattan last October with what he thought was a 1,000-pound bomb.
Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis, who investigators said acted alone with no ties to al-Qaeda, appeared very sincere as he apologized to the court.
“I intended to bomb the Federal Reserve Bank in Downtown Manhattan," Nafis said softly in perfect English. “I had an intention to commit a violent, jihadist act. I no longer support violent jihadism and I deeply regret my involvement in this case.”
Nafis, 21, pleaded guilty to attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and in exchange he will not get a guaranteed life sentence. Instead, he will get at least 30 years to life without the possibility of parole. If he is released after 30 years he will be deported back to Bangladesh. Sentencing will take place on May 30.
“He could still get life,” U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch explained afterward in front of the court. “This is a serious potential sentence.”
Investigators said that even though he had no ties to al-Qaida, he had contacts overseas that influenced him and believed he had the blessing of the terrorist organization.
Investigators said in court papers that Nafis came to the United States on a student visa last July with intentions of a jihadist attack, but with no help and no plan. He had many targets in mind, including President Barack Obama and the New York Stock Exchange. Ultimately, he decided that the best way to hurt the country was through the economy.
According to investigators, he attempted to recruit help through social media, including Facebook, and during that search came into contact with a FBI informant. An investigation proceeded involving the FBI, the NYPD and the Joint Terrorism Task Force, where they monitored Nafis as he attempted to bring his plan to fruition.
Nafis had several targets in mind and according to the indictment he told one informant, "I don't want something that's, like, small. I just want something big, something very big. Very, very, very, very big, that will shake the whole country."
Lynch described Nafis’ attempted bombing as potentially the worst since 9/11, but explained that there was never much danger from after the FBI became aware of his plot.
According to investigators, the FBI supplied Nafis with fake explosives. He stored the material and purchased a detonator. The morning of the planned attack, Nafis traveled in a van to Brooklyn where he assembled the bomb and told an agent en route that he had a “Plan B,” where he would conduct a suicide bombing operation if it looked like he was going to fail.
Once the bomb was assembled and the detonator was set, Nafis and the agent drove the van to the Federal Reserve Bank and went to a hotel where he recorded a video in which he said, “We will not stop until we attain victory or martyrdom.”
After he attempted to detonate the bomb several times by dialing a number on a cell phone, JTTF agents arrested him.
Nafis was also charged with attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization. His lawyer explained afterwards that in exchange for the guilty plea the second charge will be dropped at sentencing.