Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis (AP Graphics)
Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY
The arrest of a 21-year-old Bangladeshi national accused in a foiled bomb plot this week offers the latest evidence that terrorists are determined to strike the U.S., law enforcement officials say.
For New York, the incident represents a chilling reminder that the city remains at the top of the hit list.
More than a decade after the 9/11 attacks, 15 plots against the city have been uncovered by federal and local authorities, according to the New York Police Department. Previous targets have included the Brooklyn Bridge, Times Square, the city's subway system, Citicorp Center and the New York Stock Exchange.
This week, the Federal Reserve Bank in the heart of Lower Manhattan's financial district was added to the list.
In a written statement allegedly intended to claim responsibility for the attack, Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis stated that he chose the landmark to strike against the U.S. economy in pursuit of a goal to "destroy America."
In a brief court appearance Wednesday, Nafis was ordered held without bond.
New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly suggested that the city has become resigned to the fact that it will remain at the top of the terror target list for some time to come.
"Al-Qaeda operatives and those they have inspired have tried time and again to make New York City their killing field,'' he said. "Vigilance is our watchword now and into the foreseeable future.''
Despite marked upgrades in security and intelligence networks in the aftermath of the 2001 attacks, terror analysts say that New York's status as the financial center of world and the iconic images that the city projects to the rest of the globe make it a continuing magnet for operatives of every stripe.
"New York is like the Super Bowl for terrorists, and it may always be,'' said Don Borelli , former assistant agent-in-charge of the FBI's New York Division. "There is a familiarity with New York. Even in the most remote places in the world, people know what New York means to America.''
It is not immediately clear whether Nafis had the ability to carry out such an attack on his own, but New York U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch alleged that the suspect, who traveled to the U.S. in January on a student visa, came to New York with the purpose of forming a "terrorist cell.''
"I just want something big,'' the suspect told an FBI informant early in the planning phase, according to federal court documents.
In several conversations recorded beginning in July, the suspect allegedly expressed interest in targets, ranging from the New York Stock Exchange to "a high-ranking government official.'' The official was not identified in court documents. A law enforcement official said that there were references to President Obama, but no firm plan. The law enforcement official declined to be identified because he was not authorized to comment publicly on the investigation.
Police alleged that Nafis settled on the Federal Reserve Bank as the target because of his apparent concern for the security presence at the stock exchange.
"The financial target in this case is important because it is aimed at what the violent jihadi narrative is,'' said Karen Greenberg, director of the Fordham Law School's Center on National Security. "As a financial symbol, there is none more important than New York.''
Greenberg said the suspect's desire for a "big'' target also tracks with terrorists' repeated attempts on New York and its status as the world's financial center. Terrorists returned to the World Trade Center in 2001, after a 1993 strike -- despite killing six and injuring more than 1,000 -- fell short of the goal to topple the landmark.
"In their aspirational goals,'' Greenberg said of the New York-centered plots, "there is often this reference to spectacle. That's what they want. Creating a spectacle in New York matters and will continue to matter.''