Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis, 21, was taken into custody after a sting operation that involved the FBI and New York Police Department. He faces charges of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and attempting to provide material support to al Qaeda.
The suspect allegedly chose the New York Federal Reserve Bank as a target because he wanted to target the U.S. economy. NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Nafis considered attacking the New York Stock Exchange, but when he saw the amount of security there, he changed targets.
"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," Kelly said. "Vigilance is our watchword now and into the foreseeable future. That's why we have over 1,000 police officers assigned to counterterrorism duties every day."
Authorities say Nafis parked a van filled with what he believed were explosives outside the building and tried to detonate it with a cellphone on Wednesday. But his associates were actually undercover officers who arrested him at the scene. The explosives were not real.
According to the criminal complaint, Nafis, a Bangladeshi national, traveled to the U.S. in January for the purpose of conducting a terrorist attack on U.S. soil. He allegedly attempted to recruit people to form a terrorist cell inside the U.S. and sought out al Qaeda contacts within the U.S. to assist him in carrying out an attack.
"He (got) a student visa under the pretext of being a student in a college in Missouri. He comes here with an avowed purpose of committing some sort of jihad here in the United States," Kelly said.
During the investigation, Nafis allegedly came into contact with an FBI undercover agent who was posing as an al Qaeda facilitator. The agent supplied him with 20 50-pound bags of purported explosives, and then Nafis allegedly stored and assembled the device for the attack.
Authorities say on Wednesday morning, Nafis joined the undercover agent in a van and went to a warehouse to assemble what he believed was a 1,000-pound bomb. Once at the Federal Reserve Bank, the two exited the van and walked to a nearby hotel, where Nafis recorded a video.
Nafis told Americans in the video, "We will not stop until we attain victory or martyrdom."
Then, Nafis allegedly tried repeatedly to detonate the bomb, not knowing that the bomb was a fake.
Nafis praised the man he called "our beloved Sheikh Osama bin Laden" in a written statement meant to claim credit for the attack. Authorities believe Nafis was a "lone actor."
The suspect appeared in federal court in Brooklyn on Wednesday afternoon for arraignment, unshaven and wearing jeans and a brown T-shirt. He was remanded without bail.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.