By Rich Bockmann
Federal prosecutors have until mid-November to convene a grand jury and indict a 21-year-old Bangladeshi man who was living in Jamaica when he allegedly tried to detonate a bomb outside the Federal Reserve Bank in Manhattan last week.
Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis was ordered held without bail Oct. 17 as he was arraigned in Brooklyn federal court on charges of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and attempting to provide material support to the terrorist group al-Qaeda, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District said. Prosecutors have 30 days from the date of his arrest to get an indictment.
Nafis was arrested earlier that morning after he parked a van outside the Federal Reserve Bank on Liberty Street with a fake bomb provided to him by an undercover law-enforcement officer through an FBI sting operation, authorities said.
The New York Times reported the FBI arrested a man in San Diego on unrelated charges who was believed to be Nafis’ co-conspirator in the alleged plot.
Neighbors on the block where Nafis lived in Jamaica said they knew little, if anything at all, about him.
Mohammad Chowdhery and his family live just above Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis’ second-floor apartment on 93rd Avenue.
“I’ve seen him a couple of times, like three or four times,” Chowdhery said. “When I work nights, sometimes I come late like 3:30, 4. So one day I open the door around 3:30 a.m. and he’s coming down. He is going out at that time. We just say, ‘Hello, hi.’”
Chowdhery said Nafis was living by himself in a neighborhood which is home to many ethnic Bangladeshis and that nothing about the young man really stood out to him as suspicious.
“I was shocked. I’m really shocked,” he said. “He’s very young. When I heard that, I feel like I don’t believe that guy is doing that thing.”
Nafis came to the United States on a student visa in January, according to a criminal complaint filed by the U.S. attorney’s office, and began attending classes at Southeast Missouri State University.
A university spokeswoman said Nafis was enrolled for 12 credits from January through July and had his records transferred to an institution in Brooklyn over the summer. He lived off campus during his six-month stay, the spokeswoman said, and was placed on academic suspension at the end of the semester.
Nafis was living in New York City in July when he allegedly tried to recruit a confidential FBI source with his plan to wage jihad on America, according to authorities.
Nafis told the source he was considering an attack on targets such as the New York Stock Exchange or a high-ranking government official, and that he wanted a large bomb that would wreak havoc.
“What I really mean, is that I don’t want something that’s, like, small. I just want something big. Something very big,” authorities said he told the source. “Very, very, very, very big that will shake the whole country, that will make America, not one step ahead, change of policy, and make one step ahead, for the Muslims … that will make us one step closer to run the whole world ….”
The FBI said its New York Field Office’s Joint Terrorism Task Force had monitored Nafis since July and an undercover agent supplied him with the 1,000 pounds of fake explosive materials.
After the two drove into the city, they parked the van outside the Federal Reserve and went to a nearby hotel, where Nafis allegedly tried several times to set off the fake bomb with a detonator relayed to his cell phone, according to the complaint.
Most who passed by his home last Thursday said they did not know him at all.
Melvin Ramcherem, who has lived in the neighborhood for 20 years, said many of the buildings on Nafis’ block were built within the past few years and many of the neighbors were new.
Just outside the door of Nafis’ next-door neighbor hung an American flag.
Chowdhery, the man who lives above him, said the neighbors put the flag up because their son is in the U.S. Army.
Reporter Steve Mosco contributed to this story.
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.