The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

National News

October 18, 2012

AP source: Obama was considered potential target

NEW YORK — A Bangladeshi man snared in an FBI terror sting considered targeting President Barack Obama and the New York City 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. 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 Nafis’ admiration of Osama bin Laden and aspirations for martyrdom were not.

FBI agents grabbed the 21-year-old 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 Wednesday in lower Manhattan, the complaint said.

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-Qaida. 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.

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 Nafis’ time at the private North South University in Dhaka.

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

Ahsanullah said his son convinced him to send him to America to study, arguing that with a U.S. degree he had a better chance at success in Bangladesh.

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

He arrived in January on a student visa and studied for one semester at Southeast Missouri State University, but 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-Qaida 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-Qaida?” he was recorded saying during a meeting in a bugged hotel room in Queens, according to the complaint.

Later, Nafis “confirmed he was ready to kill himself during the course of the attack, but indicated he wanted to return to Bangladesh to see his family one last time to set his affairs in order,” the complaint said.

But there was no allegation that Nafis actually received training or direction from the terrorist group.

The federal case was the latest where a terrorism plot against the city turned out to be a sting operation.

Four men were convicted in 2009 in a plot to bomb synagogues and shoot down military planes with missiles — a case that began after an FBI informant was assigned to infiltrate a mosque in Newburgh, about 70 miles north of New York City. The federal judge hearing the case said she was not proud of the government’s role in nurturing the plot.

A Pakistani immigrant was convicted in 2006 for a scheme to blow up the subway station at Herald Square in Midtown. His lawyers argued that their client had been set up by a police informant who showed him pictures of Iraq abuse to get him involved in an attack against civilians.

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.

Dozens of governments and central banks store a portion of their gold reserves in high-security vaults deep beneath the building. In recent years, it held 216 million troy ounces of gold, or more than a fifth of all global monetary gold reserves, making it a bigger bullion depository than Fort Knox.

As a result, the Federal Reserve is one of the most fortified buildings in the city, smack in the middle of a massive security effort headed by the New York Police Department, where a network of thousands of private and police cameras watch for suspicious activity.

Obama will be in New York City on Thursday night. He will appear with Republican challenger Mitt Romney at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner, an annual political event.

 

1
Text Only
National News
  • Obama shows skepticism on Russia in Ukraine

    President Barack Obama conveyed skepticism Thursday about Russian promises to de-escalate a volatile situation in Ukraine, and said the United State and its allies are ready to impose fresh sanctions if Moscow doesn’t make good on its commitments.

    April 17, 2014

  • Judge in gay marriage case asks pointed questions

    A judge in Colorado who will play a pivotal role deciding whether gays should be allowed to wed in the United States asked pointed questions Thursday about whether Oklahoma can legally ban the unions.

    April 17, 2014

  • Cyber cops: Target hackers may take years to find

    Secret Service investigators say they are close to gaining a full understanding of the methods hackers used to breach Target’s computer systems last December.

    April 17, 2014

  • Court to weigh challenge to ban on campaign lies

    As political campaigns begin to heat up, the Supreme Court is deciding whether false accusations and mudslinging made during an election can be punished as a crime.

    April 16, 2014

  • Auto Show Nissan Hot _Cast.jpg Hot models at this year’s New York Auto Show

    With more than 1 million visitors annually, the New York International Auto Show is one of the most important shows for the U.S. auto industry.

    April 16, 2014 3 Photos

  • Transportation Blues 2.jpg Congress is giving states the transportation blues

    On the road in a tour bus this week, the U.S. transportation secretary is spreading some bad news: the government’s Highway Trust Fund is nearly broke.

    April 15, 2014 2 Photos

  • Report: Russia withheld intel before Boston attack

    A yearlong review of information the U.S. intelligence community had prior to the Boston Marathon bombing found that the investigation could have been more thorough.

    April 11, 2014

  • Obama Health Secretary.jpg Obama announces Sebelius resignation, successor

    President Barack Obama praised outgoing Health and Human Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for helping to steer his health care law’s comeback after a rocky rollout, even as he nominated a successor aimed at helping the White House move past the political damage.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Police seek driver in deadly Florida day care crash

    As mourners trickled by Thursday to honor the 4-year-old girl who was killed and 14 others injured in a crash at a Florida day care, authorities scoured the state for the driver they said fled in the vehicle that caused the fatal wreck.

    April 10, 2014

  • Stephen Colbert-Late _Cast.jpg Stephen Colbert to replace Letterman on late show

    CBS moved swiftly Thursday to replace the retiring David Letterman with Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert, who will take over the “Late Show” next year and do battle with Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel for late-night television supremacy.

    April 10, 2014 1 Photo