WASHINGTON – The FBI arrested a Massachusetts man Wednesday in an alleged plot to blow up the U.S. Capitol and the Pentagon after authorities say he provided “step-by-step” instructions on attacking Washington with drone-like, remote-controlled aircraft.
Rezwan Ferdaus, 26, a U.S. citizen and Northeastern University physics graduate from Ashland, Mass., had been approached in an undercover FBI operation after an informant came forward. Ferdaus allegedly told undercover personnel posing as al-Qaida members that he had scoped out a site next to the Potomac River to load small aircraft with C-4 plastic explosives and use GPS equipment to remotely fly them over the Capitol.
He also allegedly created components for improvised explosive devices to be used against U.S. soldiers in Iraq, and the undercover workers told him his devices had killed Americans there. According to an FBI affidavit, he replied: “That was exactly what I wanted.”
Authorities said that the public was never in danger, and that they shut down the sting after they had enough evidence to charge him. Ferdaus was arrested in Framingham, Mass., after undercover workers delivered materials they said he requested, including grenades, six machine guns and what Ferdaus believed to be explosives.
FBI Agent Gary C. Cacace, the lead agent in the case, said in the federal court affidavit that Ferdaus sought “jihad” against the U.S. as early as last year, and considered Americans “enemies of Allah.” At one point Ferdaus allegedly told the undercover workers that he was so driven, “I just can’t stop; there is no other choice for me.”
Ferdaus appeared in federal court in Worcester, Mass., on charges of trying to destroy a national defense facility and the Capitol, and attempting to provide material support to al-Qaida. He was ordered to remain in custody, and was expected to enter a not-guilty plea when he returns to court Monday. If convicted on all charges, he could face up to 55 years in prison.
Cacace’s affidavit included these allegations: Ferdaus began planning the attacks last year, with remote-control aircraft carrying explosives. He gave the undercover workers two thumb drives with detailed “step-by-step” instructions on how to hit the Capitol and Pentagon from the air. He said he would use three planes and five assistants, and called himself the “amir (commander).”
Despite Ferdaus’ claim of enlisting others into his plot, federal authorities said they are not investigating anyone else and consider him a “lone wolf.”
“We’ve eliminated the threat,” said one official.
With money provided by the FBI’s undercover workers, the affidavit said, Ferdaus “researched, ordered and acquired necessary components for his attack plans.” He allegedly acquired one remote-controlled plane, 25 pounds of C-4 explosives, six fully automatic AK-47 assault rifles, and grenades. He allegedly created an alias, Dave Winfield, rented a storage locker and opened a PayPal account to create a cover story. Although single and childless, he told a Florida distributor the plane was for his son.