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Dhaka Tribune

Nafis jailed for 30 years for NY bomb plot

Update : 10 Aug 2013, 10:30 AM

A New York court sentenced Bangladeshi national Quazi Mohammed Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis to 30 years in prison on Friday for attempting to bomb the Federal Reserve Bank in the Wall Street financial district in October last year.

Nafis, 22, had earlier pleaded guilty to attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction – a 450kg device inside a van that was in fact a dummy prop in a sting operation.

His plot was foiled by a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) undercover agent posing as an al-Qaeda facilitator. Unaware that he was being recorded, Nafis repeatedly declared that he had come to the US to carry out a terrorist attack.

“Nafis's goals of martyrdom and carnage were thwarted by the vigilance of law enforcement,” said US district attorney Loretta Lynch after US District Court judge Carol Amon handed down his sentence.

“He will now spend the next 30 years where his own actions have landed him – in a federal prison cell,” she said.

Defense lawyer Heidi Cesare expressed disappointment.

"We were hoping for a little bit of mercy, an acknowledgment of his youth, his adolescence and his attempts to redeem himself," she said outside the courthouse in Brooklyn.

When he was arrested in October last year, Nafis was described by his family in Dhaka as the only son of a senior bank executive who had dropped out of one of Bangladesh's top private universities.

“We don't believe that he could have committed this act ... He is our pride and joy,” his father Quazi Mohammad Ahsanullah said.

Nafis entered the US on a student visa in January 2012 where, according to prosecutors, he sought out al-Qaeda contacts in hopes of setting up a terrorist cell.

One of the individuals he tried to recruit was in fact an informant for the FBI, which together with New York police put Nafis under tight surveillance.

Prosecutors said Nafis proposed several targets, including a high-ranking US official and the New York Stock Exchange, before settling on the Federal Reserve building, which holds one of the world's biggest reserves of gold.

Posing as an al-Qaeda middleman, an FBI undercover agent set Nafis up with explosives to use in the purported attack – unaware that the suspect's every word was being recorded as evidence against him.

On October 17, Nafis met the agent, travelled in a van to a warehouse, and finalised what he thought was a working 1,000 pound bomb that he armed on the drive to the intended target on busy Liberty Street in New York.

Parking the van outside the Federal Reserve, Nafis walked to a hotel with the FBI agent, recorded a video claim of responsibility, then tried – unsuccessfully – to detonate the bomb with a cellphone.

It was at that instant that police arrested him.

In a five-page typewritten letter to judge Amon, dated July 31 and entered into court records, a remorseful Nafis called his actions "inexcusable and cowardly."

“I do not believe in the radical version of Islam anymore. I hate it from the bottom of my heart... It is not Islam at all,” he wrote.

He said he had come to the US “to be able to stand on my own feet, to not be a burden on my family anymore,” only to slip into depression as he clashed with relatives living in the US and discovered his girlfriend was cheating on him.

“I lost my ability to think straight. I went crazy,” he said.

He spoke of his detention after his arrest in glowing terms, and said he was treated “like a younger brother” by federal agents. He also marvelled at the “holiday package” that he and other detainees got at Christmas.

Nafis also gave a lot of thought to Islam during his time in the Metropolitan Detention Centre, “the first place I have been able to discuss radical Islam with people who are not radical.”

“I never really believed in radical Islam from my heart,” he wrote. “It is not America who is the enemy of Islam, but it is the radicals who are the enemies of Islam and the Muslims.”

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