Acquaintance shocked by former Southeast student's plot to bomb federal building
Former Southeast Missouri State University student Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis was arrested by the FBI on Wednesday for his involvement in a plot to bomb the Federal Reserve Bank in New York City.
Nafis, 21, came to the United States from Bangladesh in January 2012 on a student visa. He attended Southeast during the spring of 2012. He was pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in cybersecurity and was enrolled in 12 credit hours, according to Southeast News Bureau director Ann Hayes.
Hayes said Nafis asked the university to transfer his records to another school, which could not identify, this summer and that the university followed homeland security procedures that are required when an international student transfers.
The Department of Industrial and Engineering Technology Programs began offering a degree in cybersecurity in fall 2011. According to the university's website, Southeast is the only university in Missouri that offers cybersecurity as a bachelor degree and students "learn to use technology to secure and defend information systems."
Mushfiqur Rahman, a sophomore international student from Bangladesh, met Nafis at an off-campus party in Cape Girardeau last semester.
"What I heard about him today, I cannot believe my own ears," Rahman said.
According to Rahman, Nafis was elected vice president of the Muslim Student Association while at Southeast.
"Not just anybody can be an officer of that organization," Rahman said. "You have to be hard working, and he was."
Rahman said that Nafis never shared any radical religious beliefs with him.
"We chit-chatted about Islamic religion, but he never talked about our religion in a negative way," Rahman said.
According to the criminal complaint, Nafis first contacted an FBI confidential informant in early July 2012 to recruit the source assist him in carrying out a terror attack in the United States. Nafis had multiple phone conversations with the source, during which he said that he was in New York City and had come to the United States to wage "jihad".
Nafis plotted to bomb the financial district of New York City, but changed his target several times before he decided on the Federal Reserve Bank. Nafis planned to detonate an explosive device using a cellphone.
"All I had in my mind are how to destroy America...I came up to this conclusion that targeting America's economy is most efficient way to draw the path of obliteration of America as well as the path of establishment of Khilapha," Nafis was quoted as saying in the criminal complaint.
An undercover FBI agent who posed as an al-Qaida member collected evidence as he assisted Nafis in the planning process. On Wednesday morning, the agent and Nafis traveled to New York City in a van filled with what Nafis believed were explosives.
Just before the planned attack Nafis recorded a video statement in which he said, "We will not stop until we attain victory of martyrdom."
Nafis covered his face, wore sunglasses, and disguised his voice in the video.
Nafis then attempted to detonate the bomb by placing multiple calls to the cellphone that was the initiating device for the detonator. The FBI observed these calls and traced them to the phone attached to the detonation device. Agents placed Nafis under arrest after confirming the detonator had been activated.