RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
A young Bangladeshi man has been charged with conspiring to blow up the Federal Reserve Bank in lower Manhattan. New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly commented on the arrest at a press conference last night.
RAYMOND KELLY: This individual came here for the purpose of doing a terrorist act.
MONTAGNE: Authorities emphasize that no one was in any danger. The young man was using dummy explosives provided by the FBI. NPR's Dina Temple-Raston is in New York and she has the latest. And Dina, tell us about this plot, which involved an FBI sting, right?
DINA TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, the man at the center of it is a 21-year-old Bangladeshi student named Quazi Mohammad Nafis, and it appears he was acting alone. He came to the U.S. in January under a student visa, but apparently, as Commissioner Kelly said, the reason why he came here was with an intention to launch an attack. If that actually turns out to be the case, that makes this terrorism arrest a little different from the stings and ones we've seen in the past.
Law enforcement authorities have been under fire for possibly entrapping young Muslims by presenting them with terrorist plots, essentially turning angry young men into terrorists. In this case authorities looked to be going to great lengths to let Nafis take the lead in the plot.
MONTAGNE: And you say take the lead in the plot - in what way?
TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, all we have so far is a 21-page criminal complaint, but I have to say I cover a lot of these plots and the level of detail the FBI and NYPD provided in this complaint is really unusual. Nafis apparently first came to the attention of authorities in July when he contacted someone he'd met and asked him for help in creating a terrorist cell to carry out an attack.
And as it turns out, the person he contacted was an informant for law enforcement and he went right to the authorities. Eventually Nafis was introduced to an undercover officer who posed as an al-Qaida infiltrator and this infiltrator looks to have been hanging back and letting Nafis make the decisions in this particular plot. Commissioner Kelly said last night that Nafis allegedly actually cased the New York Stock Exchange, but thought it was too heavily guarded, so he decided that the Fed would be a better target.
MONTAGNE: So clearly authorities were monitoring this 21-year-old and his alleged plot quite closely.
TEMPLE-RASTON: Yes. In fact they actually provided the chemicals for this bomb, although they were dummy chemicals.
MONTAGNE: Though he did what? Actually try to detonate the bomb outside the Fed.
TEMPLE-RASTON: Yes. He was given what he thought was ammonium nitrate. That was the fertilizer that was used in the Oklahoma City bomb. And according to the criminal complaint, he bought batteries and detonators and cell phones, all the things he needed to build the bomb, and then yesterday morning he assembled it in a New York warehouse, he parked a van near the Fed and then walked to a nearby hotel where he made a video taking credit for the attack.
Then he dialed a cell phone to detonate the bomb, and of course it didn't go off because it wasn't a real bomb.
MONTAGNE: Well, just briefly, you mentioned he was acting alone. Was al-Qaida involved in any way?
TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, there's been some suggestion that Nafis had some connection to al-Qaida, but we don't know if he was just boasting. So at this stage certainly no one is saying al-Qaida was behind this plot.
MONTAGNE: Dina, thanks much. Dina Temple-Raston. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.