Man arrested in ‘step-by-step’ plot to blow up Capitol, Pentagon

The FBI arrested and charged a man Wednesday for allegedly plotting to blow up the Capitol and the Pentagon.

The 26-year-old Massachusetts man, Rezwan Ferdaus, was arrested as part of an FBI sting operation in which he was made to believe he was working with members of al Qaeda, who were actually undercover agents.

ADVERTISEMENT
Ferdaus allegedly gave the undercover FBI agents a detailed set of attack plans “with step-by-step instructions as to how he planned to attack the Pentagon and Capitol,” according to the Department of Justice.

The plans focused on the use of three small remote-controlled drone-like aircraft loaded with C-4 plastic explosives, which he planned to fly into the Capitol and the Pentagon using GPS equipment, according to the DOJ.

The DOJ stressed that the public was never in danger from the explosive devices, which it said were controlled at all times by undercover FBI officials who closely monitored Ferdaus as he allegedly developed his plot.

According to the DOJ, Ferdaus aimed to create a devastating psychological impact with the attacks, saying at one point, “I just cant stop; there is no other choice for me.”

“Although Ferdaus was presented with multiple opportunities to back out of his plan, including, being told that his attack would likely kill women and children, the affidavit alleges that Ferdaus never wavered in his desire to carry out the attacks,” the DOJ said in a news release.

ADVERTISEMENT
Ferdaus, a Northeastern University graduate with a degree in physics, allegedly visited Washington in May, taking pictures of his intended targets and proposed launch-sites for the remote-controlled aircraft, according to the DOJ.

Ferdaus’s plan allegedly evolved to include a “ground assault” as well, in which six people would coordinate an automatic weapons attack with the aerial assault and massacre whomever came into their path, according to the DOJ.

For the past five months, Ferdaus has allegedly been stockpiling the equipment he needed for his proposed attack, including a remote-controlled aircraft, 25 pounds of fake C-4 explosives, six automatic AK-47 assault rifles and three grenades, according to the DOJ. He allegedly kept all of it in a storage facility in Massachusetts, where he was arrested. 

Ferdaus was also charged with attempting to provide material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organization — al Qaeda — in order to carry out attacks on U.S. soldiers stationed overseas, federal authorities said.

Ferdaus allegedly modified eight cellphones to act as detonation devices for improvised explosive devices, and gave them to the FBI agents to be used against American soldiers in Iraq.

“During a June 2011 meeting, he appeared gratified when he was told that his first phone detonation device had killed three U.S. soldiers and injured four or five others in Iraq,” according to the DOJ. “Ferdaus responded, ‘That was exactly what I wanted.’”

Last week, Ferdaus gave the FBI agents a training video he made demonstrating how to make cellphone detonators, authorities said.

According to the DOJ, a focal point of Ferdaus’s plots revolved around “jihad” and his desire to carry out the will of Allah.

The U.S. attorney for the District of Massachusetts, Carmen M. Ortiz, stressed that any underlying religious motives to Ferdaus’s actions should not reflect on the Muslim culture at-large.

“I want the public to understand that Mr. Ferdaus’s conduct, as alleged in the complaint, is not reflective of a particular culture, community or religion,” Ortiz said.

“In addition to protecting our citizens from the threats and violence alleged today, we also have an obligation to protect members of every community, race and religion against violence and other unlawful conduct,” he said.

According to federal authorities, Ferdaus faces up to 15 years in prison on the material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organization charge; up to 20 years in prison on the charge of attempting to destroy national defense premises; and a five-year minimum mandatory sentence, and up to 20 years, on the charge of attempting to damage and destroy buildings that are owned by the United States by using an explosive.

Pentagon spokesman George Little declined comment and referred all questions to the Justice Department.

This story was updated at 4:52 p.m.