A man has been arrested, accused of plotting an attack on the Pentagon and US Capitol using remote-controlled aircraft armed with explosives.
In the latest of several terrorism cases to spring from US government sting operations, Rezwan Ferdaus was arrested in Framingham, Massachusetts, after undercover agents delivered materials he had allegedly requested, including grenades, six machine guns and what he believed was 24lbs of C-4 explosive.
Officials said the public was never in danger from the explosives, which it said were always under control and closely monitored.
Yesterday’s arrest was similar to other cases in which reputed would-be terrorists were caught in sting operations that revolved around fictional plots against various targets, such as Dallas skyscrapers or a Chicago nightclub.
In this case, though, authorities say Ferdaus planned the scheme.
According to a federal affidavit, Ferdaus, 26, of Ashland, became convinced America was evil through jihadi websites and videos and began planning “jihad” against the US in early 2010. He contacted a federal informant that December and months later, allegedly began meeting to discuss the plot with undercover agents he believed were members of al-Qaida.
Ferdaus said he wanted to deal a psychological blow to the “enemies of Allah” by hitting the Pentagon, which he called “head and heart of the snake”, according to the affidavit.
“Allah has given us the privilege,” he allegedly told the informant. “... He punishes them by our hand. We’re the ones.”
Ferdaus, a US citizen who graduated from Northeastern University with a bachelor’s degree in physics, made a brief initial appearance in court on charges of attempting to destroy federal buildings and providing support to a foreign terrorist organisation, in this case al-Qaida. A detention hearing will be held on Monday.
Ferdaus is accused of planning to use three remote control planes measuring up to 80ins in length.
He allegedly planned to pack 5lbs of explosives in each plane, while saving some of it to blow up bridges near the Pentagon.
The planes, guided by GPS and capable of speeds greater than 100mph, would hit the Pentagon and blow the Capitol dome to “smithereens”, according to Ferdaus’ plan, detailed in the affidavit.
Ferdaus then planned a follow-up automatic weapons attack with six people divided into two teams, according to the affidavit.
At one point, according to recorded conversation detailed in the affidavit, Ferdaus told undercover agents that his desire to attack the United States was so strong, “I just can’t stop. There is no other choice for me”.
The affidavit said Ferdaus travelled to Washington in June to carry out surveillance, and drew up a 15-phase attack plan. He also allegedly rented storage space to work on the planes in Framingham, telling the manager he planned to use the space for music.
Asked at one point about possibly killing women and children, Ferdaus allegedly said all unbelievers of Islam were his enemies.
Prosecutors also accuse Ferdaus of supplying the undercover agents with mobile phone devices he said could be used to remotely detonate explosives. When the agents falsely told him the devices had been used to kill three US soldiers in Iraq, he allegedly became visibly excited and said he felt “incredible. ... We’re changing the world”.
Rezwan is unmarried and has no children, the affidavit said.
Several alleged domestic plots have been thwarted since the September 11 2001, terrorist attacks, including in Lackawanna, New York, Portland, Oregon, and Virginia.
US Rep William Keating of Massachusetts, a member of the Homeland Security Committee, said politicians had been warned for months of an emerging threat from home-grown extremists.
He said al-Qaida was casting a wide net to radicalise individuals or small groups already in the country because of the significant advantages.
“They’re already here, so they don’t have the hurdles of getting into the country, they know the country better. ... They know how to move around,” Mr Keating said. “The testimony we heard, things like this (the Ferdaus arrest) were inevitable.”