Friday, September 30, 2011
U.S. man charged with plot to bomb Pentagon
While drone strikes have thus far been the bane of militants residing in the remote tribal belt of Pakistan, this week they were almost deployed to take out the Pentagon and the Capitol.
The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation announced on Wednesday that Rezwan Ferdaus (26), a U.S. citizen from Ashland, Massachusetts, had been charged in connection with a plot to destroy the key federal government buildings using large radio-controlled F-86 Sabre aircraft filled with what he thought was C-4 plastic explosive.
Ferdaus, said to be a graduate of Northeastern University, was also charged with attempting to provide material support and resources to al-Qaeda with the aim of facilitating attacks on U.S. soldiers overseas; attempting to destroy national defence premises; and attempting to destroy buildings owned by the U.S. using explosives.
According to a cooperating witness in an apparent sting operation by the FBI, Ferdaus stated in January 2011 that he planned to attack the Pentagon using aircraft similar to “small drone airplanes” filled with explosives and guided by GPS equipment.
Outlining his planned attack in chilling detail, Ferdaus told undercover officers: “With this aerial assault, we can effectively eliminate key locations of the P-building. Then we can add to it in order to take out everything else and leave one area only as a squeeze where the individuals will be isolated. They'll be vulnerable and we can dominate.”
In a statement, the FBI underscored Ferdaus' determination to execute his plan despite being presented with multiple opportunities to back out, including being told that his attack would likely kill women and children.
Instead, Ferdaus invoked the option of a Mumbai-style ground attack to complement the aerial strike, and reportedly told federal agents that once he isolated individuals in the two buildings into “one area only as a squeeze,” he would ensure that a six-man team armed with assault rifles would “open up on them” and “keep firing” to create “chaos” and “take out” everyone.
As part of the operation, conducted by more than 30 federal, state, and local agencies on the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force, agents supplied Ferdaus with an unspecified amount of “C-4 explosives,” an F-86 small drone aircraft, three grenades and six fully-automatic AK-47 assault rifles. In the course of the investigation, Ferdaus also delivered eight detonation devices to the undercover officers and a training video demonstrating how to make cell phone detonators.
At his final meeting with officers on Wednesday at which Ferdaus inspected the components, brought them to his storage unit and took possession of the entire inventory, he was arrested, the FBI said in a statement. It added that at no point in time was the public in any danger from explosive devices, which were controlled by undercover FBI employees.
No community targeted
Prosecuting officials were quick to dispel any notion that the sting operation against Ferdaus had targeted any larger community. U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said: “I want the public to understand that Mr. Ferdaus' conduct, as alleged in the complaint, is not reflective of a particular culture, community, or religion.”
If convicted, Ferdaus faces a total of up to 55 years in prison for all three charges and a $250,000 fine.