x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Student snared in FBI terror sting considered targeting Obama: police

Bangladeshi man snared in an FBI terror sting considered targeting the US president before settling on a car-bomb attack on the federal reserve in New York, according to a police official.

Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis at an undisclosed location in Bangladesh.
Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis at an undisclosed location in Bangladesh.

DHAKA/NEW YORK // A Bangladeshi man snared in an FBI terror sting considered targeting the US president before settling on a car-bomb attack on the federal reserve in New York, a police official said yesterday.

The official stressed that the suspect never got beyond the discussion stage.

In a September meeting with an undercover agent posing as a militant, 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. He had also considered the New York Stock Exchange as a target.

The bomb was phoney, but authorities say that Mr Nafis' admiration of Osama bin Laden and aspirations for martyrdom were not.

FBI agents grabbed Mr Nafis, 21, armed with a cellphone he believed was rigged as a detonator, after he made several attempts to blow up a fake 454-kilogram bomb inside a vehicle parked next to the Federal Reserve on Wednesday in lower Manhattan, the complaint said.

Mr Nafis is a banker's son from a middle-class neighbourhood in Bangladesh. Yesterday, his family members said they were stunned by his arrest.

Prosecutors said Mr Nafis travelled to the US on a student visa in January to carry out the attack.

His family said Mr Nafis was incapable of such actions.

"My son can't do it," his father, Quazi Ahsanullah, said as he wept in his home in the Jatrabari neighbourhood in north Dhaka.

"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 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 convinced him to send him to the US to study, arguing that with a US degree he had a better chance at success in Bangladesh.

"I spent all my savings to send him to America."

He called on the government to "get my son back home".