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Quazi Nafis, 21, the former student accused of plotting to blow up the Federal Reserve.
The student from Bangladesh who allegedly plotted to set off a truck bomb outside the New York Federal Reserve Bank is one of the most dangerous terrorists the United States has faced since the Sept. 11 attacks, the U.S. attorney handling the case said Friday.
“He came here wanting to carry out a terrorist attack and he came here already radicalized,” said U.S attorney Loretta Lynch. She added Mohammed Nafis is likely more dangerous than the group of terrorists in the 2009 Zazi suicide bomb plot who targeted New York City’s subway system.
“I would say (Nafis) was as dangerous if not more so than the Zazi members,” Lynch said. “Nothing was going to stop him. This defendant was thinking ahead about how if he survives he can carry out bigger and better plots in the future.”
Speaking out for the first time, Lynch said the feds were a bit lucky that Nafis contacted an informant about building a terror cell to carry out bombings in New York. She said Nafis was plotting and reaching out to others weeks before the FBI knew he was in the country.
“This defendant came here to build his terror network. It was only through some luck that he did make a connection through law enforcement and that we were then able to pretend to join his group.”
Nafis was arrested Wednesday morning after parking a van he thought was loaded with more than 1,000 pounds of explosives. But the device was inert because the FBI had secretly provided some non-working components. Officials insist the public was not in any immediate danger as Nafis was being closely monitored.
Lynch said the investigation continues into whether Nafis had al Qaeda contacts overseas. She said he did try to recruit others here in the United States but was not immediately successful. And she pointed out he thought he had the FBI undercover agent as a terrorist accomplice.
FBI, NYPD and Homeland Security officials have said Nafis was radicalized by watching online jihadist videos and reading al Qaeda’s “Inspire” Magazine.
“He was not someone who learned sitting at the feet of bin Laden but he was inspired by him,” Lynch said.
Investigators said he was capable of building a bomb and had been mapping targets for weeks.
Overseas, relatives of Nafis said he was a good man who must have been somehow set up. Lynch said, ”It’s not the government that is targeting these young people. It is al Qaeda that is targeting these people. And we’ve got to break that hold.”
Jonathan Dienst is WNBC's chief investigative correspondent. Shimon Prokupecz is a WNBC investigative producer.