NEW YORK — The 21-year-old Bangladeshi man who allegedly tried to blow up the New York Federal Reserve Bank in lower Manhattan had an accomplice who was arrested Wednesday in San Diego, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.
The co-conspirator, identified by sources as Howard Willie Carter II, was arrested on child pornography charges hours after Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis was taken into custody in Lower Manhattan, capping an extensive undercover operation by the FBI and NYPD, Kelly and sources said.
Nafis came to the United States in January on a student visa and was determined to "destroy America" through an act of terrorism, authorities said. When he got here, he attempted to recruit others to join a terrorist cell and track down others associated with Al Qaeda, police said.
One of the people Nafis was in close communication with was Carter, identified in court documents as "Yaqueen," who spoke to Nafis primarily over the Internet and provided him with guidance and additional ideas like targeting a Baltimore military base, according to court documents. The two met over Facebook, sources said.
Carter has not been charged in the alleged terror plot, but he was arrested for child pornography after authorities found a hard drive containing about 1,000 incriminating photos in a Dumpster outside Carter's apartment building, sources said.
During the investigation, Carter told undercover agents that Nafis planned to attack and kill a high-ranking government official, documents show.
Sources said President Barack Obama was Nafis' intended target, but Kelly refused to confirm that Thursday.
“It does not say that in the complaint. It says a ‘significant public official,’” he said. “I’m going to stay within the complaint.”
Nafis’ alleged plan to assassinate the official never progressed beyond the discussion stages, the AP reported.
Shortly before attempting the attack on the Federal Reserve, Nafis enrolled in ASA College in Midtown, sources said.
Aaron Sabater, 22, who had seen Nafis around the college building several times, was shocked to hear he had been accused of plotting a terror attack.
"It's insane," said Sabater, who attends the SAE Institute in the same building as ASA College. "He was really quiet."
ASA did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Nafis was arraigned in Brooklyn Federal Court Wednesday afternoon and charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and attempting to provide material support for Al Qaeda.
He was arrested as he tried to detonate an inert 1,000-pound bomb at the Federal Reserve. The bomb — which was provided by an undercover officer — never posed a danger because the explosives were fake, officials said.
Nafis had been living with relatives in an apartment in Jamaica, Queens, and worked as a busboy for a Manhattan restaurant, according to Kelly.
His family back in Bangladesh was stunned to hear Nafis was involved in such a plot.
“My son can’t do it,” his father Quazi Ahsanullah told the AP through tears. “He is very gentle and devoted to his studies.”