Father of Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis says he can't believe his son was part of alleged plot blow up bank
The family of the Bangladeshi man accused of trying to blow up New York's Federal Reserve have expressed disbelief over his involvement in the FBI sting operation.
Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis's relatives said he had spoken with them just hours before he was arrested in lower Manhattan, giving an update on his studies and seeming "calm".
Nafis is accused of attempting to detonate a bomb created with fake explosives provided by the FBI. An undercover agent supplied Nafis with 1,000lbs of fake explosives and travelled with the 21-year-old to the Federal Reserve. Reports on Thursday suggested Nafis had also considered targeting President Barack Obama before settling on the New York bank.
"My son couldn't have done it," Nafis's father, Quazi Ahsanullah, told the Associated Press. Ahsanullah said Nafis was a timid man who was sometimes wary of leaving the house alone.
"He used to take someone to go the roof at night. I can't believe he could be part of [the plot]," Ahsanullah said.
Nafis's family said he had travelled to the US to study business administration, not to carry out terrorist attacks. Ahsanullah said his son had convinced him to send him to America for college, arguing that with a degree from an American school he had a better chance at succeeding in Bangladesh.
"I spent all my savings to send him to America," Ahsanullah said.
But while Nafis's father described him as "very gentle and devoted to his studies", pointing to Nafis' time at the private North South University in Dhaka, Bangladesh, a spokesman for the university said Nafis had been a poor student who had eventually dropped out.
Belal Ahmed told Associated Press that Nafis was a terrible student who was put on probation and threatened with expulsion if he didn't bring his grades up. Nafis finally just stopped coming to school, Ahmed said.
The FBI revealed it had arrested Nafis on Wednesday afternoon. It said Nafis had "actively sought out al-Qaida contacts within the US to assist in carrying out an attack", and in the process of that search had come across an undercover FBI agent posing as an al-Qaida facilitator.
The agent supplied the "explosives" and met Nafis at a warehouse on Wednesday morning. The two then drove to the Federal Reserve, located a few blocks from the World Trade Center, in a van loaded with the 1,000lb inert bomb. Nafis and the agent parked the van and walked to a nearby hotel, where Nafis unsuccessfully attempted to remotely detonate the explosives, the FBI said. He was arrested by agents from the joint terrorism task force at the scene.
Federal authorities said Nafis had begun seeking out al-Qaida contacts soon after he arrived in the US in January this year. On Thursday it emerged that Nafis attended Southeast Missouri State University for the spring semester, which ended in May, studying a bachelor's degree in cybersecurity. A university spokeswoman said Nafis had requested a transfer of his records in July and the university complied, although she could not say where the records were sent.
Associated Press, citing an unnamed source, reported on Thursday that Nafis had considered targeting Barack Obama before settling on the Federal Reserve, one of the most fortified buildings in the city which holds a portion of the US gold reserves. The source "stressed that the suspect never got beyond the discussion stage" in planning to attack the president, AP said.
CBS News reported on Thursday that federal officials were present at the New York home where Nafis had been staying, a red-brick building in the Jamaica area of Queens. The owner of the building, Rafiqul Islam, told the news channel that Nafis was staying with his second-floor tenants, who said he was related to the family.
"I didn't notice anything, he spoke to me very quietly," he said. "He said he was going to be studying here," Islam said, adding that Nafis had been living there for about a month. CBS said there was no answer at the door to Nafis's apartment.