Florida Terrorism Suspect Planned New York Attack, Feds Say
(FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.) — A Florida terrorism suspect arrested along with his brother last month was planning a lone wolf attack in New York City, according to Justice Department officials.
At a detention hearing in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., Tuesday, federal prosecutors said Raees Alam Qazi traveled to New York in late November to obtain explosives to carry out an attack, possibly in Times Square.
Qazi and his older brother, Sheheryar Alam Qazi, were arrested on Nov. 29 and charged with conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists.
The disclosure by Justice Department prosecutors at a court hearing is a new detail in a case that was initially announced by the Justice Department along with a three-page indictment that provided no details behind the terrorism charges.
Prosecutors have alleged that Raees Alam Qazi traveled to New York on Nov. 23, but returned to the Florida area days later. At one point, two government sources said, he managed to slip surveillance while in New York, only to be located later.
“There are no specific or credible terrorism threats to New York at this time. Raees Alam Qazi’s plans were aspirational,” an FBI spokesman said. “He had no specific plan or targets identified to carry out an attack.”
According to officials, Raees Alam Qazi is described as a suspected lone wolf terrorist inspired by al Qaeda. Officials allege the suspect attempted to reach out to Islamic radicals affiliated with al Qaeda overseas.
Prosecutors at Tuesday’s hearing alleged that Qazi read Inspire Magazine, and may have been influenced by lectures of Anwar al-Awlaki, the radical cleric killed in a U.S. drone strike, who has been at the heart of many U.S. terorrism cases. Prosecutors say Qazi also gathered information on explosives.
The indictment alleges that between July 2011 and Nov. 29, 2012, the suspects were conspiring to “provide material support and resources — including property, services, funding, lodging, communications equipment, personnel and transportation — knowing and intending that this support be used in preparation for and in carrying out a violation of law — namely, a conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction.”
Unlike many recent terrorism cases, this was not an FBI sting operation in which the FBI approaches suspects they believe are interested in committing possible acts of terror. Law enforcement officials tell ABC News that Qazi had been monitoring FBI sting cases.
Qazi and his older brother are naturalized U.S. citizens who arrived in the United States and were granted lawful permanent residency in November and October 2000 respectively.
Raees became a naturalized citizen in July 2006, and according to a Nov. 30, 2012 FBI-DHS intelligence bulletin obtained by ABC News on the case, Raees “most recently traveled to Pakistan from July 2011 to February 2012 according to DHS travel data. Upon his February return to the United States, Raees claimed during secondary inspection by DHS Customs and Border Protection (CBP) that the purpose of his travel was to visit family and vacation.”
According to the DHS-FBI intelligence bulletin Sheheryar Qazi became a naturalized U.S. citizen in September 2009. He returned from a trip to Pakistan in January 2011 stating the purpose of his travel was to visit family members, according to DHS travel data and U.S. Customs and Border Protection information.
“The alleged activities of Raees Alam Qazi and Sheheryar Alam Qazi highlight the continued interest of violent extremists in conducting terrorist attacks in the Homeland. We strongly encourage federal, state, local tribal and territorial counterterrorism to remain alert and immediately report potential indicators of pre-operational activity,” the bulletin states.
A White House official told ABC News’ Jake Tapper that President Obama was briefed about this case even before the arrest.
A review of Justice Department cases from this year shows that there have been 19 terrorism cases brought in 2012 alone.
Defense attorneys for the two men declined to comment when contacted by ABC News.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio