Jackson Heights man sought grenades and guns in plotting lone wolf terror attack in Times Square: Feds

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Jackson Heights resident Ashiqul Alam, 22, was arraigned in Brooklyn Federal Court Friday afternoon for plotting a lone wolf terror attack in Times Square.

A criminal complaint was filed by the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District charging the Bangladeshi national with knowingly receiving two firearms with obliterated serial numbers in Brooklyn.

Alam was arrested on June 6 by the Joint Terrorism Task Force, which is comprised of detectives from the NYPD and the FBI, who mounted a sting operation.

“As alleged, Ashiqul Alam bought illegal weapons as part of his plan to kill law enforcement officers and civilians in a terrorist attack on Times Square,” U.S. Attorney Richard P. Donoghue said. “What he did not know was that he was buying weapons from government agents, who were monitoring his plans and intervening to prevent those plans from escalating into deadly violence. The Office, together with our law enforcement partners, will continue to exercise extreme vigilance to prevent terrorists from attacking our city and our country.”

Between August 2018, Alam repeatedly expressed a desire to purchase firearms and explosives for use in a terrorist attack, according to the criminal complaint. Alam identified two targets, either times Square or Washington, D.C., in order to kill a senior government official. In January, he conducted several “recon” trips to Times Square, using his cell phone to make video recordings of the area as he searched for potential targets.

Alam considered multiple ways to conduct such an attack, including by using a “suicide vest” and by obtaining AR-15 assault rifles to kill law enforcement officers.

“Mr. Alam discussed guns, suicide vests, hand grenades, and surveilled crowded New York targets such as Times Square,” Police Commissioner James O’Neill said. “Our job is to prevent these terrorist attacks whenever we can before they are carried out, This case is another example of the tightly-knit teamwork of the JTTF and the NYPD’s Intelligence Bureau. Mr. Alam is charged with illegally purchasing untraceable firearms from undercover officers. That was a clear indicator of his intent to move his plot forward.”

The complaint explains how Alam told one undercover law enforcement officer why he had Lasik eye surgery. “Let’s say we are in an attack, right, say that my glasses fall off,” he said. “What if I accidentally shot you? You know what I mean? Imagine what the news channel would call me ‘Looney Tunes Terrorist’ or ‘Blind Terrorist.’”

On June 6, Alam met the individual he believed was going to sell him firearms and was shown two Glock 19 semi automatic pistols with obliterated serial numbers. Alam provided $400 towards the purchase of the two pistols and asked whether he could also buy a silencer. He was arrested shortly thereafter.

The criminal complaint describes a conversation between Alam and an undercover officer last Sept. 11, discussing Osama bin Laden in which Alam called the 9/11 attacks “a complete success, thousands of American soldiers died and trillions of their monies is gone in the war.”

In a separate conversation between the two, Alam said Bin Laden did his job. “Now it is up to us.” he said, according to the complaint.

In another meeting between the two on the West Side Highway in March, Alam noted One World Trade saying, “More for us to break.”

“There is more to this case than just talk and the desire to carry out a terrorist attack. Individuals who believe in the distorted and deadly propaganda of terrorist organizations and work towards acting on those deadly impulses are incredibly dangerous and unpredictable,” FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. said. “Mr. Alam allegedly then took the steps to follow through on his deadly impulse, purchasing weapons to kill New Yorkers, target an elected official and attack police officers. The FBI New York Joint Terrorism Task Force and the NYPD Intelligence Breau will simply not allow individuals to execute their plots, and our team will use every legal tool available to us to protect our community and remain ahead of the threat individuals like Alam pose to our communities.”

Alam is a Lawful Permanent Resident of the United States, according to court documents.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, Alam was ordered held without bail at his June 7 arraignment; he must return to court on June 21.

This story was updated on June 7 at 6:40 p.m. Robert Pozarycki contributed to this report.

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