Dawn News

Conflicting accounts towards NY terrorist

Bangladeshi Quazi Ahsanullah displays a photograph of his son Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis as he weeps in his home in the Jatrabari neighborhood in north Dhaka.—AFP Photo

NEW YORK: At the Missouri college where Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis enrolled, a classmate said he often remarked that true Muslims don't believe in violence.    

That image seemed startlingly at odds with the Bangladesh native's arrest in an FBI sting this week on charges of trying to blow up the Federal Reserve Bank in New York with what he thought was a 1,000-pound car bomb.

''I can't imagine being more shocked about somebody doing something like this,'' said Jim Dow, a 54-year-old Army veteran who rode home from class with Nafis twice a week. ''I didn't just meet this kid a couple of times. We talked quite a bit. ... And this doesn't seem to be in character.''

Nafis' family in Dhaka, Bangladesh, denied he could have been involved in the plot. His parents said he was incapable of such actions and came to America only to study.

Federal investigators, often accused by defense attorneys of entrapping and leading would-be terrorists along, said the 21-year-old Nafis made the first move over the summer, reaching out for accomplices and eventually contacting a government informant, who then went to federal authorities.

They said he also selected his target, drove the van loaded with dummy explosives up to the door of the bank, and tried to set off the bomb from a hotel room using a cellphone he thought had been rigged as a detonator.

During the investigation, he and the informant corresponded via Facebook and other social media, talked on the phone and met in hotel rooms, according to a law enforcement official who was not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.    Nafis spoke of his admiration for Osama bin Laden, talked of writing an article about his plot for an AL-Qaida-affiliated magazine, and said he would be willing to be a martyr but preferred to go home to his family after carrying out the attack, authorities said. And he also talked about wanting to kill President Barack Obama and bomb the New York Stock Exchange, a law enforcement official said.

Investigators said in court papers that he came to the U.S. bent on jihad and worked out the specifics of a plot when he arrived. While Nafis believed he had the blessing of al-Qaida and was acting on behalf of the terrorist group, he has no known ties, according to federal officials.

Nafis, who at the time of his arrest Wednesday was working as a busboy at a restaurant in Manhattan, was jailed without bail. His attorney has not commented on the case, but in other instances where undercover agents and sting operations were used, lawyers have argued entrapment.

Investigators would not say exactly how he initially contacted the government informant.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, whose department had a role in the arrest as a member of a joint federal-state terrorism task force, said the entrapment argument rarely prevails.

''You have to be otherwise not disposed to do a crime,'' Kelly said. ''And if it's your intent to do a crime, and somehow there are means made available, then generally speaking, the entrapment defense does not succeed.''

Nafis was a terrible student in his native Bangladesh, and his middle-class parents said he persuaded them to send him to study in the US as a way of improving his job prospects. They don't believe he was planning an attack.

His father, a banker, said Nafis was so timid he couldn't venture out onto the roof alone.

''My son couldn't have done it,'' Quazi Ahsanullah said, weeping.

''He is very gentle and devoted to his studies,'' he said, pointing to Nafis' time studying at the private North South University in Dhaka.    Belal Ahmed, a spokesman for the university, said Nafis was put on probation and threatened with expulsion if he didn't bring his grades up. Nafis eventually stopped coming to school, Ahmed said.

The father of Bangladeshi national Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis who arrested in New York for attempting to detonate a bomb, cries alongside other relatives in Dhaka.—AFP photo

Ahsanullah said his son had argued that a US degree would give him a better chance at success in Bangladesh. ''I spent all my savings to send him to America,'' the father said.

Nafis moved to Missouri, where he studied cyber security at Southeast Missouri State University. He also became vice president of the school's Muslim Student Association and began attending a mosque.

But he withdrew after one semester and requested over the summer that his records be transferred to a school in Brooklyn. The university declined to identify which school.    Dow, his former classmate at Southeast Missouri State, said Nafis spoke admiringly of bin Laden.

At the same time, ''he told me he didn't really believe bin Laden was involved in the twin towers because he said bin Laden was a religious man, and a religious man wouldn't have done something like that,'' Dow said.

He said Nafis gave Dow a copy of the Quran and asked him to read it. But he ''didn't rant or rave or say crazy stuff,'' Dow said.

''What really shocked me the most was he had specifically spoken to me about true Muslims not believing in violence,'' Dow said.

Dion Duncan of St. Louis, a fellow student and member of the Muslim organization, said: "Nafis was a good kid. He showed no traces of anti-Americanism, or death to America, or anything like that. He was a trustworthy, honest kid."

"He was polite and courteous. He was helpful. All the things you would expect from a good Muslim kid. He prayed five times a day," Duncan said.

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Comments (61) Closed

Raw is War
Oct 19, 2012 03:41pm
very sad
Oct 19, 2012 02:02pm
Conspiracy theories don't work in democratic countries. He is guilty beyond any doubt.
Ashraf Alam
Oct 19, 2012 02:02pm
Now every Muslim in America is a suspect...............
Duray Abbas Malik
Oct 20, 2012 08:20am
Feel very sad for family especially poor father but no sympathy for the person who was going to kill many innocents people.
Oct 19, 2012 09:22pm
You have only one life. do not waste it behind the bars. Get good education and bring prosperity for your family and country. Leave the Jihad for the Governments.
Oct 20, 2012 02:26pm
You do the Crime, You do the Time.
Amjad Wyne
Oct 19, 2012 06:39pm
Yes indeed, as a father, I felt the same pain.
Oct 19, 2012 01:19pm
As a father I feel sad for the parents
P N Eswaran
Oct 20, 2012 10:21am
"Vulnerable individuals" ? Isn't it better to catch the snake before it has accumulated the venom? Americans are doing it for their safety is it wrong? Had you done would you not been in a better shape today. That you have created the mess is a different issue.
Cyrus Howell
Oct 20, 2012 12:02pm
He threw away his life listening to the FBI. However he was a poor student and had to do something he felt was honorable. His father wanted him to succeed in life and this was what he chose to do.
Cyrus Howell
Oct 20, 2012 12:03pm
Well said.
Cyrus Howell
Oct 20, 2012 12:05pm
It is sad for his father who did the right thing. How does one get that far off track?
Cyrus Howell
Oct 20, 2012 12:13pm
His parents are heartbroken but he did not think of that did he?
Sandeep Singh
Oct 20, 2012 06:50am
Yeah, But who is to blame?
Cricket wala
Oct 20, 2012 06:51am
Educated Bin Laden from Bangladesh this time......
Oct 20, 2012 12:48am
Not that it makes this case any less painful for his parents and it may even sound selfish too,I mean no disrespect when I say that thank goodness it was'nt a Pakistani for a change.
Oct 20, 2012 12:13am
The problem now in America and Americans will be like nobody trust Islamic / muslim people. It doesn't matter whether he or she is from Pakistan, Bangladesh ,India or elsewhere and how innocent he or she may be. It is not expected from Bangladeshi or Indian muslim at least. It is terrible blunder this young chap has committed. He doesn't have any idea how much damage he has done to the reputation of people of Bangladesh in America.
Oct 20, 2012 07:20am
Got what he deserved. How dare he jeopardized every Muslim living in America
Oct 20, 2012 05:36am
He is 21 years old. At this age he is a man, so please stop calling him a kid.
Oct 20, 2012 07:44am
Oct 19, 2012 01:15pm
tragedy , we all should focus our attention toward progress through education
Concerned Citizen
Oct 19, 2012 09:02pm
It is indeed sad to hear this and hope that justice and truth would prevail.
Oct 19, 2012 02:52pm
THe FBI has been using entrapment for some time now, if he is proven innocent , then maybe they USA will consider this an entrapment issue.
Oct 19, 2012 10:17pm
young muslim kids are venerable to terrorize on name of islam...!
Oct 19, 2012 08:05pm
I feel very sad for parents who invested life savings on this failing student at home and turned to extremism on arrival to USA.This is a timely reminder and warning to students with ulterior motives to carry terrorism in USA.They will be caught and punished.
Oct 19, 2012 03:48pm
this is called 'entrapment'. FBI has been doing it for a longtime now. they find vulnerable individuals provide them with fake explosive & the arrest them. its a good way to keep the the fear of terrorism alive in the hearts of US citizens and justifiy 'war of terror'.
Oct 19, 2012 09:12am
said story.
Oct 21, 2012 06:52am
you mean they brainwashed this kid and trapped him.are you a a joker?
Oct 21, 2012 06:05am
Typical case of 'religion' overdose....
Oct 21, 2012 05:00am
Sorry to say, this is not called entrapment and he is guilty of this crime 100%. Since this is a fed case, he is looking at minimum 25 years in the federal high security prison in the US. I feel sorry for the parents and his families.
Malik Mansur
Oct 21, 2012 04:33am
He should be given exemplary punishment. He has sullied the name of Islam and abused the hospitality of the colleges that admitted him for studies.
Oct 21, 2012 04:27am
Back in 1975-76 my wife and I emphasized time and again to our two teen aged sons to stay away from nefarious actions involving fights, drugs, stealing or other undesirable activities on their own or under pear pressure. While stressing upon this code of ethics we warned them the minute we had an inkling of their untoward behaviours we would be the first to call police and have them arrested. On our part, we kept them busy with games, community, air cadet activities etc. Both went through university with flying colours; while eldest is a pilot in an airline and the other is a good businessman. Parenting is a full time job you got to know what your child is at without her/him knowing it. It's a huge responsibility. it and this exercise start from day one
Oct 21, 2012 04:15am
I entirely agree with you. He got what he deserved. You dont go to someone else as a guest and destroy the host. He wanted to go to US. Now he will stay there all his life.
Oct 21, 2012 03:28am
But why even this tiny minority? This means the tiny minority has not come to study but to spread and put into practice the hate literature from their country to the US?
Oct 20, 2012 06:15am
Young boys at an impressionable age may be easily brainwashed and unfortunately, such boys may not confide in the members of their family. When the US is blamed in the Muslim world so much, why should a Muslim go to the US for higher studies?
Madan Mohan Joshi
Oct 20, 2012 06:14am
I am astonished with the fact that the people who brainwash young minds with hate, use not their own children. They choose children of simple citizens who are left to weep throught their life for their loved ones.
Israr Khan IsmailZai.
Oct 21, 2012 02:18am
Well, it is election time in America, remember how Osama's video use to appear out of nowhere closer to elections??? Now Obama is using the same tactic.
Oct 20, 2012 11:09pm
There does seem to be something odd here.
Oct 20, 2012 09:54pm
Frnakly, I have hardly met any Muslim who admires America. They live here, make a living, but hate them! Don't you think this is hypocracy?
Oct 20, 2012 09:55pm
The only solution to all our problems and miseries is compulsory modern education, denial of which should be a non bailable offence.
Oct 20, 2012 09:29pm
This is a Big Lesson for extremists. Please stop violence and lets share love . I salute officials who caught this boy and saved further violence.
Husain Bulman
Oct 20, 2012 08:37pm
What was 9/11 then?
Husain Bulman
Oct 20, 2012 08:36pm
To the governments or Taliban?
Oct 20, 2012 04:41pm
People should ask why so many people have to go to the US to better their lives. Fight against local corruption and bad governance. No use blaming the US.
Oct 19, 2012 10:14am
This is not the first time we see nice kids turn towards extremism. So many immigrants come to the us for education and economic betterment and have turned into jihadis Family always believes in their virtues. Let us see how the prosecutors prove their case
Oct 20, 2012 03:30pm
yes they do!! humans are same everywhere. They conspire, plot, plan.... What a very absurd logic. Your bias is shocking as well. He has not even been tried yet and you are calling him guilty beyond doubt. I can see you hate muslims beyond logic
Oct 20, 2012 03:28pm
Those who carry out these sting operations as well
Oct 19, 2012 10:33am
i dont beleive some kind of consipirasy theory behind nafis case.100%
Oct 20, 2012 02:18pm
I don't know why but i feel sympathy for the kid. I get the feeling that he was an innocent kid who was manipulated,used and exploited by american intelligence agencies. My heart goes out for his parents and family members
Cyrus Howell
Oct 19, 2012 02:04pm
Yes. The parents can never believe it, but it is not likely their son told them what he was doing either.
Reddy sahib
Oct 19, 2012 12:54pm
Its the nice kids that turn to terrorism , you dont have to be a hardnut drooling terrorist to destroy , gentle boys who are brainwashed to do things that their parents cannot imagine they are capable of,
Iqbal khan
Oct 20, 2012 03:22am
These people deserve this.There are thousands other ways to serve your religion.Muslims should openly condemn such acts.I am a Muslim and I have no sympathy with this boy.Millions of Muslims are suffering due to such acts by some misguided people.
Oct 19, 2012 02:49pm
At least bangladesh banned mullah Moudadi literature!
Cyrus Howell
Oct 19, 2012 06:25pm
They are the ones who are hurting.
Radhey Shyam Tiwari (USA)
Oct 19, 2012 05:04pm
This community always lives in denial.....That's the worst part of this community.....Har chor yahi kehta hai..."Mein chor nahin hoon"
Oct 19, 2012 08:18pm
This smells of entrapment. The FBI/NYPD finds a weak minded individual, prays on his mind and sets him up for a terrorist operation. When everything is all setup they go to the press. This way the funds keep on flowing and the people in the security industry are employed. The thing they need to realize is that a real hardcore terrorist is not going to be taking any help from some guy whom he meets on facebook. They are well prepared and will pounce when and where they can. This whole FBI/NYPD entrapment programme is not only a waste of tax payers money but most importantly gets the investigators bogged down in a nothing case.
Imran A.
Oct 19, 2012 05:16pm
The government should also prosecute the imam of the mosque he attended.
Oct 19, 2012 05:20pm
No surprise to anybody. " He started attending a mosque after becoming the president of Muslims students". It might have started from there. Wait for the prosecution. We can't believe parents comments as well as friends accounts. He can easily hide his intentions from parents or friends. Lets take the law its own due course.
Oct 19, 2012 01:12pm
Our heartfelt sympathies to his parents who have done their best to raise a son, spent their life savings to give him better opportunities than they have and now have to face the situation because of his behavior. Violence and killing of innocents will and not and should not be tolerated by any civalized society and countries who support such activities should be accountable for it
Satyameva Jayate
Oct 19, 2012 09:10pm
The students who genuinely wish to go for studies pay for such acts.... And then some complain that getting visas to western countries is getting tough....
Oct 19, 2012 05:22pm
Exactly...so many immigrants come to the US to study, and how many have truend around to do such a thing? a very very tiny minority. Am I correct?