For the second time, a Bangladeshi has been arrested in connection with a terrorist plot against Times Square, New York city’s popular tourist area crowded with thousands of visitors…writes ARUL LOUIS
An admirer of slain Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, 22-year-old Ashiqul Alam was arrested after he received two semi-automatic pistols from an undercover law enforcement officer with whom he had discussed carrying out terror attacks, officials announced on Friday.
Another Bangladeshi had tried to bomb a Times Square underground metro station in 2017, but the bomb did not explode properly.
Akayed Ullah received severe burn injuries in the failed attack and was arrested and convicted on terrorism charges.
Alam, who was arrested on Thursday, was produced in a federal court in the city on Friday and charged with illegally buying the two guns, with their serial numbers erased. A judge ordered him held in custody without bail.
According to the complaint, Alam made contact with the undercover agents who he thought were jihadi sympathisers and made his plans.
Police Commissioner James O’Neill said: “Alam discussed guns, suicide vests, hand grenades, and surveilled crowded New York targets such as Times Square.”
Alam had also discussed carrying out an attack in Washington to kill “a government official”, whom the complaint did not identify.
According to court papers, law enforcement officials had kept a watch on Alam from at least August 2018, when he had been interacting with an undercover agent.
The complaint said that in January, he made reconnaissance trips to Times Square, which is known as the “crossroads of the world” and is home to the NASDAQ Stock Exchange headquarters as well as several media and entertainment organisations.
“As alleged, Ashiqul Alam bought illegal weapons as part of his plan to kill law enforcement officers and civilians in a terrorist attack on Times Square,” federal prosecutor Richard Donoghue said.
“What he did not know was that he was buying weapons from government agents, who were monitoring his plans and intervening to prevent those plans from escalating into deadly violence.”
As part of his planning, he underwent eye surgery to improve his vision so that he could function without his glasses, the complaint said. He explained to the agent that it was to avoid accidentally shooting him during the attack because if he had to wear glasses it may fall off and he may not be able to see clearly.
Alam wanted to kill law enforcement officials and wanted to get grenades that could “take out at least eight people”, the complaint said.
A Pakistani-American man had also tried in 2010 to attack Times Square. The car bomb he set there did not fully explode and he was arrested while boarding a plane to Dubai.
He was the son of a Pakistan Air Force Vice Marshal and had trained in Waziristan with the Pakistan Taliban. He was given a life sentence.
A woman of Pakistani descent, Asia Siddiqui, was arrested in 2015 in New York City in connection with a plot to build a pressure cooker bomb.
There are other terrorism cases involving people of Bangladeshi origin. In 2012, Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis tried unsuccessfully to blow up the Federal Reserve Bank in New York. But he had been under surveillance by federal agents and what he thought was a 1,000-pound bomb was a fake.
Another Bangladeshi, Rahatul Ashikim Khan, was convicted in Texas of helping someone in 2014 join the al-Shabaab terrorist organisation that operates in Somalia and East Africa and sentenced to 10 years in prison.