BOSTON >> A Massachusetts man was arrested today and accused of plotting an assault on the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol using remote-controlled aircraft armed with explosives — the latest of several terrorism cases to spring from federal sting operations.
Rezwan Ferdaus was arrested in Framingham after undercover federal agents delivered materials he had allegedly requested, including grenades, six machine guns and what he believed was 24 pounds of C-4 explosive. Federal officials said the public was never in danger from the explosives, which it said were always under control and closely monitored.
Today’s arrest was similar to other cases in which would-be terrorists were caught in sting operations that revolved around fictional plots against various targets, such as Dallas skyscrapers or a Chicago nightclub. In this case, though, authorities allege Ferdaus planned the scheme.
According to a federal affidavit, Ferdaus, 26, of Ashland, became convinced that America was evil through jihadi websites and videos, and began planning "jihad" against the U.S. in early 2010. He contacted a federal informant that December and months later, allegedly began meeting to discuss the plot with undercover federal agents he believed were members of al-Qaida.
Ferdaus said he wanted to deal a psychological blow to the "enemies of Allah" by hitting the Pentagon, which he called "head and heart of the snake," according to the affidavit.
"Allah has given us the privilege," he allegedly told the informant. "He punishes them by our hand. We’re the ones."
Ferdaus, a U.S. citizen who graduated from Northeastern University with a bachelor’s degree in physics, made a brief initial appearance today in federal court on charges of attempting to destroy federal buildings and providing support to a foreign terrorist organization, in this case al-Qaida. A detention hearing was scheduled for Monday.
Telephone messages were left at the office of his attorney, Catherine Byrne, and at the address listed for Ferdaus in the affidavit.
Several alleged domestic plots have been thwarted since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, including in Lackawanna, N.Y.; Portland, Ore.; and Virginia.
Terrorism arrests involving federal stings have often been followed by claims of entrapment, but none of the cases brought since Sept. 11 has been thrown out on such grounds.
Ferdaus allegedly planned to use three remote control airplanes measuring about from 60 to 80 inches in length. The planes can fly up to 100 mph and carry up to 50 pounds.
Ferdaus allegedly said he was skilled in operating remote vehicles, and wanted to hit the Pentagon and blow the Capitol dome to "smithereens." He then planned a follow-up automatic weapons attack with six people divided into two teams, according to the affidavit.
At one point, according to recorded conversation detailed in the affidavit, Ferdaus told undercover agents that his desire to attack the United States was so strong, "I just can’t stop. There is no other choice for me."
According to the affidavit, Ferdaus traveled to Washington, D.C., in June to do surveillance, and drew up a 15-phase attack plan. He also allegedly rented storage space to work on the planes in Framingham, telling the manager he planned to use the space for music.
Asked at one point about possibly killing women and children, Ferdaus allegedly said all unbelievers of Islam were his enemies.
Prosecutors also allege that Ferdaus supplied the undercover agents with cell phone devices he said could be used to remotely detonate explosives. When the undercover agents falsely told him the devices had been used to kill three U.S. soldiers in Iraq, he allegedly became visibly excited and said he felt "incredible. … We’re changing the world."
Ferdaus is unmarried and has no children, the affidavit said.
He had one previous brush with the law. In 2003, The Boston Globe reported that he and two other Ashland High School seniors were accused in a vandalism spree at the school.