US authorities have arrested a man they say was plotting to attack the Federal Reserve building in Lower Manhattan, close to where the 9/11 attacks hit the World Trade Centre site.
Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis, a 21-year-old Bangladeshi man, is now in custody, apparently caught in a sting operation by the FBI and NYPD.
The "explosives" in the van were inert, officials said.
The suspected terrorist allegedly parked a van filled with he believed to be a 1000 pound bomb outside the Lower Manhattan building, but the explosives were provided by an undercover FBI agent that he met online and believed to be an accomplice.
City authorities stressed the public had never been in danger.
FBI Acting Assistant Director Mary Galligan said: "Attempting to destroy a landmark building and kill or maim untold numbers of innocent bystanders is about as serious as the imagination can conjure.
"It is important to emphasize that the public was never at risk in this case, because two of the defendant’s ‘accomplices’ were actually an FBI source and an FBI undercover agent. The FBI continues to place the highest priority on preventing acts of terrorism."
According to the New York Post, the suspect went to the Millennium Hotel near the World Trade Centre, where he called the cell phone in the van, which he believed to be a detonator.
According to the criminal complaint filed today in the Eastern District of New York, Nafis traveled to the United States in January 2012 to carry out a terror attack.
The FBI alleged that "unbeknownst to Nafis, one of the individuals he attempted to recruit was actually a source for the FBI."
They allege he proposed targets including a "high-ranking US official and the New York Stock Exchange."
In a written statement which the FBI say takes responsibility for the attacks, "Nafis wrote that he wanted to “destroy America” and that he believed the most efficient way to accomplish this goal was to target America’s economy.
In this statement, Nafis also allegedly included quotations from “our beloved Sheikh Osama bin Laden” to justify the fact that Nafis expected that the attack would involve the killing of women and children.
"Earlier this morning, Nafis met the undercover agent and traveled in a van to a warehouse located in the Eastern District of New York. While en route, Nafis explained to the undercover agent that he had a “Plan B” that involved conducting a suicide bombing operation in the event that the attack was about to be thwarted by the police.
"Upon arriving at the warehouse, Nafis assembled what he believed to be a 1,000-pound bomb inside the van. Nafis and the undercover agent then drove to the New York Federal Reserve Bank.
"During this drive, Nafis armed the purported bomb by assembling the detonator and attaching it to the explosives. Nafis and the undercover agent parked the van next to the New York Federal Reserve Bank, exited the van, and walked to a nearby hotel.
"There, Nafis recorded a video statement to the American public that he intended to release in connection with the attack.
"During this video statement, Nafis stated, 'We will not stop until we attain victory or martyrdom.' Nafis then repeatedly, but unsuccessfully, attempted to detonate the bomb, which had been assembled using the inert explosives provided by the undercover agent. "
NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly said: “Al Qaeda operatives and those they have inspired have tried time and again to make New York City their killing field.
"We are up to 15 plots and counting since 9/11, with the Federal Reserve now added to a list of iconic targets that previously included the Brooklyn Bridge, the New York Stock Exchange, and Citicorp Centre.
"After 11 years without a successful attack, it’s understandable if the public becomes complacent. But that’s a luxury law enforcement can’t afford. Vigilance is our watchword now and into the foreseeable future."