Law enforcement sources said today that no evidence has emerged suggesting the man accused of plotting a New York City terrorist attack had revealed his deadly intentions to his old college roommates, and the man's family said they were "stunned" by the government's accusations.
Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis, a 21-year-old Bangladeshi national, came to the U.S. on a student visa in January and led a quiet life, sources said. His father in Bangladesh told reporters Nafis had convinced him that he needed to get an American degree, so the father spent all he had to send his son to the States.
But Nafis dropped out of school and federal officials said that by at least early July, he was trying to link up with al Qaeda terrorists to plot a major attack against the U.S. According to a federal complaint, Nafis unwittingly contacted an undercover FBI agent online and enlisted the undercover agent's help to acquire explosives.
Nafis was arrested Wednesday after he tried to blow up the Federal Reserve Bank with a 1,000 pound "bomb," according to court documents. The bomb, however, was a fake, provided by the FBI undercover agent. The public was never in any danger, officials said.
Nafis also allegedly threatened to kill a "high-ranking government official," according to the federal complaint. A U.S. official briefed on the case told ABC News the target was President Obama.
While it is unclear when Nafis allegedly decided to turn to violence, he told the undercover agent in July that his purpose in coming to America was to wage "jihad," court documents say. Law enforcement sources told ABC News that the students Nafis lived with during his brief stint in an American college appeared completely unaware of any bomb plot.
Nafis' father, Quazi Mohammad Ahsanullah, told Agence France Presse today that the family cannot believe their son would've been involved in such a violent plot.
"We're stunned. Nafis is not a radical type. He says prayers five times a day, and reads the holy Koran and Hadith every day," Quazi said. "We don't believe that he can have committed this... He is our pride and joy.
Nafis' brother-in-law told AFP he "never showed any form of radicalization when he was in Bangladesh."
New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly told reporters Nafis had apparently called back to Bangladesh before the attempted bombing to ask whether it was acceptable for women and children to be among the victims.
"Apparently he got it in his mind anyway [that] he got permission to do that," Kelly said. "He somehow comes to the state of mind that this is acceptable to do."
Court Documents Describe Deadly Scheme
According to officials, this summer the would-be terror bomber met a man on the internet who he thought was a fellow aspiring terrorist but was actually an undercover FBI agent.
Nafis allegedly indicated a desire to blow up the Federal Reserve, and he and the undercover agent began planning the bombing. At Nafis's request, say officials, the undercover FBI agent supplied him with 20 50-pound bags of purported explosives known as ANFO, a common industrial explosive, that were used to construct the bomb. Nafis allegedly purchased components for the "bomb's" detonator.
On Wednesday morning, Nafis met the undercover agent and traveled to a warehouse, where he allegedly said he had a "Plan B" that involved a suicide attack if the bombing was stopped by police. At the warehouse he assembled what he thought was a bomb, and then allegedly parked his van outside the bank on Liberty Street near the New York Stock Exchange.
He then went to a nearby hotel, where he recorded a video statement that was to be released after the attack. On the video, Nafis allegedly stated, "We will not stop until we attain victory or martyrdom."
He then called a cellphone attached to the "bomb," trying repeatedly to detonate the device. The device did not explode, and federal agents arrested him.
"Attempting to destroy a landmark building and kill or main untold numbers of innocent bystanders is about as serious as the imagination can conjure," Mary Galligan, acting assistant FBI director, said Wednesday. "It is important to emphasize that the public was never at risk in this case."
Kelly said Nafis presented another example of why the threat from so-called lone wolf actors is still very real, even as the core of al Qaeda has been hammered by American forces.
"We don't see the threat as having diminished significantly. We have said all along the lone wolf threat has been out there consistently since 2002," he said. "There is so much information out there as to how to build a bomb or how to create mayhem... I don't see any reason to be optimistic about a diminishing of this threat."