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, 2001 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,” U.S Attorney Loretta Lynch told NBC 4 New York in an interview. She added that Mohammed Nafis is likely more dangerous than the group of terrorists in the 2009 suicide bomb plot who targeted New York City’s subway system.
“Nothing was going to stop him," Lynch said. "This defendant was thinking ahead about how if he survives he can carry out bigger and better plots in the future.”
Speaking publicly for the first time, Lynch said federal authorities were a bit lucky that Nafis unknowingly 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," she said. "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 allegedly 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 nonworking components. Officials say the public was not in any immediate danger as Nafis was being closely monitored.
Lynch said the investigation continues into whether Nafis had al-Qaida 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-Qaida’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.
His attorney has declined to comment.
Lynch said: ”It’s not the government that is targeting these young people. It is al-Qaida that is targeting these people. And we’ve got to break that hold.”