Another one bites the dust. A Florida resident born in Pakistan is in federal custody today after the FBI intercepted his plans to destroy a New York City landmark.
According to the New York Post, 20-year-old Raees Alam Qazi sought to avenge deaths resulting from U.S. drone attacks in Afghanistan by blowing up a venue in the Big Apple that would likely be crowded this time of year. In captured recordings of phone conversations between Qazi and Islamist enablers, the suspect even mentioned the use of Christmas tree lights as an explosive trigger.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Gilbert said at a bail hearing that Qazi had researched bomb-making techniques on Internet sites affiliated with al Qaeda, adding, “he fully intended to do this, and thankfully he didn’t have enough money.”
Qazi, a naturalized U.S. citizen who attended local Florida public schools, traveled to New York last month in the hopes of finding work that would help offset the costs of his terrorist ambitions. He ended up sleeping on public transportation, in restaurants, and in a mosque. His plan foiled, he headed back home via Greyhound bus only to find authorities waiting for him.
Investigators searched his home in Oakland Park, a suburb of Ft. Lauderdale, and found bomb-making and related components. His brother, 30-year-old taxi driver Sheheryar Alam Qazi, has also been charged with conspiring to provide material support to terrorists and attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction in the U.S.
Both men have pleaded not guilty to the charges. If convicted, they face possible life sentences.
Raees Qazi’s attorney, Daniel Ecarius, pleaded with the judge to grant his client bail. Ecarius noted that Qazi had no criminal past and had already relinquished his passport. But U.S. Magistrate Judge William Matthewman would not be dissuaded from ordering Qazi and his brother remanded until trial, declaring both flight risks and posing a danger to the community.
In one conversation recorded by the FBI, Sheheryar Qazi compared his brother to a “lone wolf, like the Times Square bomber.” The reference was to bomber Faisal Shahzad, who unsuccessfully attempted to detonate a bomb at the New York landmark in May 2010. He is currently serving a life sentence.
In another conversation, Sheheryar Qazi hinted at the likelihood that any attack would have been a suicide mission, remarking his brother “wasn’t going to be in this world long.”