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Conflicting images emerge of NY terror suspect

By Colleen Long

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Oct. 19 2012 7:05 a.m. MDT

Pedestrians walk past the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in New York, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012. A Bangladeshi man snared in an FBI terror sting on Wednesday considered targeting President Barack Obama and the New York City Stock Exchange before settling on a car bomb attack on the Federal Reserve, just blocks from the World Trade Center site, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press on Thursday.

Seth Wenig, Associated Press

Enlarge 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."

Meanwhile, a law enforcement official said the bomb plot investigation led to the arrest of a San Diego man on child porn charges.

Howard Willie Carter II was arraigned Thursday in federal court in San Diego on three counts of child pornography. He pleaded not guilty.

Investigators discovered child porn on Carter's computer after he communicated online with Nafis.

The official was not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Carter wasn't charged in the bomb plot, but he's listed as an unnamed co-conspirator in the federal complaint against Nafis.

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