NEW YORK (AP) — A Bangladesh native accused of trying to blow up the Federal Reserve Bank in New York with what he thought was a 1,000-pound car bomb pleaded guilty Thursday to terrorism charges stemming from an FBI sting.
"I had intentions to commit a violent jihadist act," Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis said in a soft voice while entering the plea in federal court in Brooklyn.
He told the judge that he picked the Federal Reserve as the target, but he also expressed remorse, saying he no longer considers himself a jihadist.
"I deeply and sincerely regret my involvement in this case," he said.
Nafis, 21, had been charged in October with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and attempting to provide material support to al-Qaida. He faces a sentence of 30 years to life at his next court date on May 30.
Nafis originally came to the United States to study cybersecurity at a Missouri college where he also became vice president of the school's Muslim student association. But he withdrew after one semester and requested over the summer that his records be transferred to a school in Brooklyn.
Authorities say Nafis adopted more radical views and began using Facebook and other social media to seek support for a terror attack. One of his contacts turned out to be a government informant who notified authorities.
While under investigation, 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.
He also talked about wanting to kill President Barack Obama and bomb the New York Stock Exchange, officials said.
As the plot progressed, Nafis selected his target, drove a van loaded with dummy explosives 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, authorities said. No one was ever actually in danger because the explosives were fakes provided by the government.
Family members in Dhaka had said they did not believe there son was a would-be terrorist.
"My son couldn't have done it," Quazi Ahsanullah said after his son's arrest.
The Federal Reserve Bank in Manhattan is one of 12 branches around the country that, along with the Board of Governors in Washington, make up the Federal Reserve System that serves as the central bank of the United States and sets interest rates.
The Federal Reserve is one of the most fortified buildings in the city, smack in the middle of a massive security effort headed by the New York Police Department where a network of thousands of private and police cameras watch for suspicious activity.
Associated Press writer Colleen Long contributed to this report.