A Massachusetts man was arrested today for allegedly masterminding a plot to hit the nation's capital with explosive-laden remote-controlled airplanes followed by a ground assault, the Department of Justice said.
Rezwan Ferdaus, a 26-year-old U.S. citizen and Northeastern University graduate, was nabbed in an elaborate FBI sting after he told undercover officers exactly how he planned to arm "small drone airplanes" with explosives in order to hit the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol building before opening fire on the survivors, federal officials said in a statement.
"The conduct alleged today shows that Mr. Ferdaus had long planned to commit violent acts against our country, including attacks on the Pentagon and our nation's Capitol [building]. Thanks to the diligence of the FBI and our many other law enforcement partners, that plan was thwarted," U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Carmen M. Ortiz said.
According to investigators, Ferdaus believed he had been working for al Qaeda since 2010 when he began modifying cell phones to serve as electrical switches for improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to be passed on to fighters in the Middle East.
"During a June 2011 meeting, he appeared gratified when he was told that his first phone detonation device had killed three U.S. soldiers and injured four or five others in Iraq. Ferdaus responded, 'That was exactly what I wanted,'" the Department of Justice statement said.
The cell phones, however, never got anywhere near the Middle East as Ferdaus was actually handing them over to undercover officers for the FBI. Still, Ferdaus appeared to want to do more, investigators said.
"Ferdaus envisioned causing a large 'psychological' impact by killing Americans, including women and children, who he referred to as 'enemies of Allah,'" the DOJ's statement said. "According to the affidavit, Ferdaus' desire to attack the United States is so strong that he confided, 'I just can't stop; there is no other choice for me.'"
Ferdaus allegedly wanted to command a team of six operatives that would use up to three remote-controlled aircraft filled with explosives in the "aerial" part of the attack before firing on any survivors in a follow-up "ground" attack.
Federal investigators said Ferdaus traveled to Washington, D.C., to "conduct surveillance" and take photographs of his targets before today acquiring his weapons, including six AK-47 assault rifles, grenades and what he believed to be C-4 explosives.
"Although Ferdaus was presented with multiple opportunities to back out of his plan, including being told that his attack would likely kill women and children, the affidavit alleges that Ferdaus never wavered in his desire to carry out the attacks," the DOJ said.
Ferdaus has been charged in connection to the plot as well as attempting to provide material support and resources to al Qaeda.
An attorney for Ferdaus, Cathy Byrne, was not available for comment for this report.