Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Pakistani-born Muslim brothers arrested for plotting to blow up major NYC attractions on Christmas

Sheheryar Alam Qazi (left) and Raees Alam Qazi
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — A Pakistani-born man wanted to avenge the deaths of U.S. drone attacks in Afghanistan by blowing up a New York City landmark but lacked the money and materials to carry out the plan, a federal prosecutor said Tuesday.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Gilbert said at a bail hearing that Raees Alam Qazi, 20, researched bomb-making techniques on Internet sites affiliated with al Qaeda, including one using Christmas tree lights, and the FBI recorded phone calls and conversations linking Qazi to a purported "lone wolf" plot.

"He fully intended to do this, and thankfully he didn't have enough money," Gilbert said. Referring to casualties in U.S. drone attacks, she added: "He wants to avenge those deaths and kill people."

Qazi traveled to New York last month in hopes of getting a job to fund his terrorist plans, Gilbert said, but wound up sleeping in public transportation, a mosque and in restaurants, and riding a bicycle around the city looking for potential targets. He then decided to return home on a Greyhound bus and was arrested after arriving back in South Florida, she said.

Qazi, a naturalized U.S. citizen who attended local Florida public schools, confirmed many elements of the plot in a statement to FBI agents after his arrest in late November, Gilbert said. Investigators also found bomb-making and related components at the Qazi family home in Oakland Park, as well as explosives research evidence on a computer used by Qazi.

Qazi is charged along with his brother, 30-year-old taxi driver Sheheryar Alam Qazi, with conspiring to provide material support to terrorists and with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction in the U.S. Both have pleaded not guilty to the charges, which carry a potential life sentence if the men are convicted of both counts.