CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KMOX/CBS) –The man accused of attempting to blow up the New York City Federal Reserve was a student at Southeast Missouri State University.
Quazi Mohammad Rewanul Ahsan Nafis was enrolled at Southeast Missouri State University for the spring semester earlier this year and was pursuing a degree in cyber security; he is not currently enrolled there.
Through a sting operation, Nafis drove a vehicle he assumed contained explosives to the building. He was arrested with his finger on the fake detonator.
Earlier in the day, he went to a warehouse and assembled what he believed to be a 1,000-pound bomb using inert explosives provided by federal agents. He also recorded a videotaped statement in which he said, “We will not stop until we attain victory or martyrdom,” federal prosecutors said.
Authorities said Nafis proposed several spots for his attack, including the New York Stock Exchange — and that in a written letter taking responsibility for the Federal Reserve job he was about to carry out, he said he wanted to “destroy America.”
A source told CBS News that the arrest was the result of a several-month investigation, and that the suspect is from Jamaica, Queens, in New York.
The bank in New York, located at 33 Liberty St., is one of 12 branches around the country that, along with the Board of Governors in Washington, make up the Federal Reserve System that serves as the central bank of the United States. It sets interest rates.
The Bangladeshi native reported having overseas connections to al-Qaeda, and traveled to the U.S. in January to carry out an attack, according to a complaint filed in federal court in Brooklyn. He was trying to recruit people, but one was a secret FBI source, and Nafis was closely monitored as he tried to act out his plot.
Nafis was awaiting a federal court hearing later Wednesday where he is facing a charge of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and attempting to provide material support for al-Qaeda. Sources say that he is not cooperating.
After the arrest, the FBI released a statement saying: “Attempting to destroy a landmark building and kill or maim untold numbers of innocent bystanders is about as serious as the imagination can conjure. The defendant faces appropriately severe consequences. It is important to emphasize that the public was never at risk in this case, because two of the defendant’s ‘accomplices’ were actually an FBI source and an FBI undercover agent.”
New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the plot demonstrates the continued threat of terrorism against the city.
“Whether al Qaeda operatives like Iyman Faris or those inspired by them like Jose Pimentel, terrorists have tried time and again to make New York City their killing field,” said Kelly in a statement. “We’re up to 15 plots and counting since 9/11, with the Federal Reserve now added to a list of iconic targets that previously included the Brooklyn Bridge, the New York Stock Exchange, and Citicorp Center. After 11 years without a successful attack, it’s understanding if the public becomes complacent. But that’s a luxury law enforcement can’t afford.”