A Bangladeshi man accused of trying to bomb the Federal Reserve building in Lower Manhattan is a banker's son from a middle class neighborhood whose family members said Thursday that they were stunned by his arrest.
The FBI arrested 21-year-old Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis on Wednesday after he tried to detonate a fake 1,000-pound car bomb, according to a criminal complaint.
Prosecutors said Nafis traveled to the U.S. on a student visa in January to carry out an attack.
His family said Thursday that Nafis was incapable of such actions.
"My son couldn't have done it," his father, Quazi Ahsanullah, said as he wept in his home in the Jatrabari neighborhood in north Dhaka.
"He is very gentle and devoted to his studies," he said, pointing to Nafis' time at the private North South University in Dhaka.
He added that his son was too timid to venture onto the roof of the family home alone. "He used to take someone to go the roof at night. I can't believe he could be part of it (the plot)."
However, Belal Ahmed, a spokesman for the university, said Nafis was a terrible student who was put on probation and threatened with expulsion if he didn't bring his grades up. Nafis eventually just stopped coming to school, Ahmed said.
Ahsanullah said his son convinced him to send him to America to study, arguing that with a U.S. degree he had a better chance at success in Bangladesh.
"I spent all my savings to send him to America," he said.
He called on the government to "get my son back home."
The criminal complaint said Nafis wrote a statement claiming responsibility for what he thought would be the Fed attack, saying he wanted to "destroy America" by going after its economy. He referred to "our beloved Sheikh Osama bin Laden" in the statement.
He also proposed various other targets beyond the Fed building at 33 Liberty St., just blocks from the World Trade Center site, prosecutors said. He considered targeting President Barack Obama as well as the New York Stock Exchange, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press on Thursday.
Nafis, who was living with either a friend or relative in Jamaica, Queens, also attended Southeast Missouri State University for a semester, studying cybersecurity as a sophomore from January through May 2012, a school spokesman said. He sought a transfer to a New York City program and left Missouri after the spring, according to a law enforcement official.
Wisam Yunis, 29, told NBC 4 New York that Nafis was active in the Muslim Student Association there, but left suddenly.
"I was surprised," Yunis said. He added he does not believe the charges against Nafis.
In New York, Nafis attended ASA School for just one week before his arrest. The school said "he was in complete compliance" with his student visa and went there following a normal transfer.
Nafis allegedly sought out al-Qaida contacts to help him in the plot, unknowingly recruiting an FBI source in the process. At that point, the FBI and NYPD began monitoring him as he developed the plot, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors say Nafis met an undercover FBI agent Wednesday morning and put the bomb inside a van before driving to the Fed building, assembling the detonator while he drove. He later tried to set off the bomb through a cell phone detonator, officials said.
Nafis was charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and attempting to provide material support to al-Qaida. His attorney declined comment after a court appearance.
Andrew Siff contributed to this story from Cape Girardeau, Mo.