The FBI have facilitated and possibly groomed yet another individual with apparent extremist views, in to running through a fake terrorist bomb plot, in order to arrest him in a headline friendly sting operation.
Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis, a 21 year old Bangladeshi man was arrested on Wednesday near the New York Federal Reserve bank, allegedly attempting to detonate an inert substance within a vehicle. He had been in contact with several “co-conspirators” during the planning stages, who were in fact undercover agents and confidential informants working for the FBI. It was through these contacts that the FBI supplied Nafis the dud bomb, which he presumably believed to be real.
Nafis and an undercover law enforcement officer are said to have assembled the FBI’s fake device at a warehouse outside the city and then drove it to the infamous banking building, before proceeding on foot to the nearby Millennium Hotel. It’s claimed Nafis disguised himself and recorded a “martyrdom video” within the hotel and was then intercepted after attempting to remotely detonate the prop using a cell phone.
Despite the device being completely non-active and provided by the FBI, Nafis was quickly charged in Brooklyn Federal Court for attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. Early reports that he was also targeting Obama for assassination are completely unfounded and do not appear in his charges. These claims seem to be politically motivated exaggerations during election season.
Nasif was additionally charged with supporting Al-Qaeda.
This notion will always be a controversial one. The US justice system’s definition of what or who Al-Qaeda actually is, tends to be the oversimplified and overreaching assertion that an international network of Islamic terrorists, operating with centralized control, are waging a war against the United States. In reality many experts believe this “network” to be a lot less unified. Furthermore most of their alleged attacks on US soil lead back to the same style of dubious sting operation that has targeted Nafis. Without the FBI would this supposed “Al Qaeda” be as successful?
Authorities are maintaining Nafis may have traveled to the US on instruction from “Al Qaeda” to wage Jihad, though they have only been able to charge him with “material” support, because there is no evidence that he was in direct contact with any group other than the FBI posing as Al Qaeda.
Indeed the single link put forward by authorities comes from his undercover “co-conspirator”, who reportedly claims that during the drive to the Federal Reserve Nafis confided in him that he was inspired by video tapes of deceased Anwar al-Awlaki, the alleged former leader of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Penisula, a dubious group operating out of Yemen, which has been tied to a number of dud attacks, such as the Yemen Ink-Cartridge plot. Awlaki himself, a probable intelligence asset who was invited to dine at the Pentagon following 9/11 , is linked to similar sting operations, including the 2009 Christmas Tree plot, where another young man was given a fake bomb after being groomed via the internet.
Naturally Nafis’ family are shocked and unwilling to accept the FBI’s claims. His brother in-law Arik told AFP : “Nafis never showed any form of radicalisation when he was in Bangladesh.” His father, Quazi Mohammad Ahsanullah, a senior vice president of National Bank in Bangladesh, reiterated this to Sky News, stating : “We’re stunned. Nafis is not a radical type. I have never seen him reading any books on jihad. We don’t believe that he can have committed this… He is our pride and joy.”
Ahsanuallh has been pleading with the Bangladeshi government to intervene and bring his son home, but Nafis will remain on trial in the United States, facing life in jail.
Before the alleged plot had had gotten underway Nafis had not been in the US long, having traveled to the country ten months ago on a student Visa. He rented an apartment in the neighborhood of Jamaica, Queens, New York. (This is the same area that FBI supergrass and probable double agent, Mohammed Junaid Babar resided, before traveling to Pakistan in 2001) .
One of the key figures for the prosecution is an unnamed informant, who was arrested on non-terror related charges and persuaded in to working for the FBI. The source is claiming to have been in contact with Nafis shortly after he arrived in the US, in July, and states that Nafis expressed interest in forming a terror cell. The exact detail behind their meeting has not been disclosed, but the Federal Complaint filed for Nafis’ arrest cites phone and social media records rather than bona-fide face to face contact.
Although it was the FBI who provided the device, the complaint states that Nafis learned how to make a bomb from an article posted in the online magazine Inspire, allegedly published by Awlaki’s al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. This likely means he simply possessed that particular copy on his hard-drive.
Rather than your average hardcore Islamic fundamentalist literature, Inspire is an English written tabloid that experts consider poor quality and lacking the impact the media claim it has . Thomas Hegghammer of the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment argued that “there is nothing particularly new or uniquely worrying…The exact same types of articles have appeared in other magazines for years. The article on ‘make a bomb in the kitchen of your mom’ is hardly a game changer in the world of terrorism. Tactical instruction manuals abound online and have done so for a decade.”
“The hulabaloo says a lot more about Western media than about al-Qaida. Specifically it reveals a level of ignorance about the world of jihadi propaganda that I find very disappointing nine years after 9/11.”
Some extremists were said to be initially skeptical that the magazine was even real because the first copy was corrupted and seemed like a computer virus . What this also reveals is that it had no formal unveiling, but simply popped up as a shared PDF file through Jihadi forums and websites. There is nothing tangible that links it to any core of Al Qaeda.
Hegghammer continues: “A considerable amount of jihadi media is produced by self-started entrepreneurs with no direct ties to militants whatsoever. Authenticity is therefore most often a matter of degrees, not a question of either-or. Inspire may well be the work of genuine religious activists, but not necessarily of the inner core of AQAP. Without signals intelligence it is extremely difficult to determine the precise nature of the link between the editors and the AQAP leadership.”
Could Inspire itself be a tool for sting operations? A fishing hook of sorts to get the ball rolling?
The target of the plot, the New York branch of the Federal Reserve is particularly interesting, in that the Fed has also been the focus of peaceful activists over the past few years. This recent operation may have the effect of equating political concern for the actions of the financial institution, with Terrorism. At the least it allows the media to uncritically promote the role of the Fed as safeguarding the US economy, when many believe its policies are ruining the US economy. Supporters of former presidential candidate Ron Paul (who has been insitrumental in anti-Fed activism) themselves have been baselessly designated as potential “domestic terrorists” by aspects of the US Government . It’s not difficult to envisage shock jock US commentators comparing “End The Feders” to Al-Qaeda in future reports.
So was Nasif a legit terrorist threat? Would he have come in contact with real Al Qaeda members if left alone, and would he really have had the capacity to create a bomb and get it to his destination without the FBI?
There should be a lot more to come about about this case going forward. As it stands currently, Nafis was magically radicalized and magically drew the attention of a confidential informant working for the FBI. Until we know how these two things came about (i.e. Through which Mosque or which websites, and what the specific evidence is), we cannot rule out the possibility of a wider network or a wider and more sinister sting operation being involved.
Of course we also need to wait and see if the claims made in the complaint are backed up by solid evidence themselves. These things are never as airtight as they seem. Was Nafis really the one pushing the plot along, or was he selected and groomed at various stages?
At his preliminary hearing Nafis did not enter a plea and his lawyer remains tight lipped.
This is one of several terrorist attack the FBI have “foiled” in the last few years, at not one of them seems to have had any legs until the FBI itself got involved.
Read the official Federal Complaint HERE.