NEW YORK (AP) — A Bangladesh native accused of trying to blow up the Federal Reserve Bank in New York with what he thought was a 1,000-pound (450-kilogram) car bomb pleaded guilty Thursday to terrorism charges related to an FBI sting.
"I had intentions to commit a violent jihadist act," Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis told the judge. "I deeply and sincerely regret my involvement in this case." The 21-year-old faces a possible life term at sentencing on May 30.
Nafis was charged in October with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and attempting to provide material support to al-Qaida. Investigators said in court papers that he came to the U.S. bent on jihad and worked out the specifics of a plot when he arrived.
Investigators said Nafis contacted a government informant, who then went to federal authorities. They said he selected his target, drove a van loaded with dummy explosives to the door of the bank and tried to set off the bomb using a cellphone he thought had been rigged as a detonator. But it was all fake.
Nafis also believed he had the blessing of al-Qaida and was acting on behalf of it, but he has no known ties to the terrorist group, according to federal officials. During the investigation, Nafis spoke of his admiration for Osama bin Laden, talked of writing an article about his plot for an al-Qaida-affiliated magazine and said he would be willing to be a martyr but preferred to go home to his family after carrying out the attack, authorities said.
He also talked about wanting to kill President Barack Obama and bomb the New York Stock Exchange, officials said. But family members in Dhaka said they did not believe he was capable of such actions. "My son couldn't have done it," Quazi Ahsanullah said after his son's arrest.
Nafis, who was working as a busboy at a Manhattan restaurant at the time of his arrest, came to the U.S. as a student. His parents said he was terrible in school in Bangladesh and that he persuaded them to send him to study in the U.S. as a way of improving his job prospects.
He moved to Missouri, where he studied cybersecurity at Southeast Missouri State University. But he withdrew after one semester and requested that his records be transferred to a school in Brooklyn. The university declined to identify which school.
The Federal Reserve Bank in Manhattan is one of 12 branches that, along with the Board of Governors in Washington, make up the Federal Reserve System that serves as the country's central bank.
Associated Press writer Colleen Long contributed to this report.