- Associated Press - Thursday, October 18, 2012

NEW YORK (AP) — A Bangladeshi man snared in an FBI terror sting considered targeting President Obama and the New York Stock Exchange before settling on a car bomb attack on the Federal Reserve, just blocks from the World Trade Center site, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press on Thursday.

The official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the investigation and talked to the AP on condition of anonymity, stressed that the suspect never got beyond the discussion stage in considering an attack on the president.

In a September meeting with an undercover agent posing as a fellow jihadist, Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis explained he chose the Federal Reserve as his car bomb target “for operational reasons,” according to a criminal complaint. Mr. Nafis also indicated he knew that choice would “cause a large number of civilian casualties, including women and children,” the complaint said.

The bomb was phony, but authorities said that Mr. Nafis‘ admiration of Osama bin Laden and aspirations for martyrdom were not.

FBI agents grabbed the 21-year-old Mr. Nafis — armed with a cellphone he believed was rigged as a detonator — after he made several attempts to blow up a fake 1,000-pound the bomb inside a vehicle parked next to the Federal Reserve on Wednesday in lower Manhattan, the complaint said.

Mr. Nafis appeared in federal court in Brooklyn on Wednesday to face charges of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and attempting to provide material support to al Qaeda. Wearing a brown T-shirt and black jeans, he was ordered held without bail and did not enter a plea. His defense attorney had no comment outside court.

Mr. Nafis is a banker’s son from a middle-class neighborhood, and family members said Thursday that they were stunned by his arrest.

“My son can’t do it,” his father, Quazi Ahsanullah, said as he wept in his home in the Jatrabari neighborhood in north Dhaka, Bangladesh.

“He is very gentle and devoted to his studies,” he said, pointing to his son’s time at the private North South University in Dhaka.

However, Belal Ahmed, a spokesman for the university, said Mr. Nafis was a terrible student who was put on probation and threatened with expulsion if he didn’t bring his grades up. Mr. Nafis eventually just stopped coming to school, Mr. Ahmed said.

Mr. Ahsanullah said his son persuaded him to send the young man to America to study, arguing that with a U.S. degree he would have a better chance at success in Bangladesh.

“I spent all my savings to send him to America,” Mr. Ahsanullah said.

He arrived in January on a student visa and studied for one semester at Southeast Missouri State University, but he requested a records transfer in January and the university did not know why. Apparently, he instead decided to plot an attack, reaching out for possible conspirators who turned out to be government agents, authorities said.

He had sought assurances from one undercover, posing as an al Qaeda contact, that the terrorist group would support the operation.

“The thing that I want to do, ask you about, is that, the thing I’m doing, it’s under al Qaeda?” he was recorded saying during a meeting in a bugged hotel room in Queens, according to the complaint.

Story Continues →