Rezwan Ferdaus, a 26-year-old Massachusetts resident was arrested in an FBI sting on Wednesday after allegedly plotting to use large remote controlled model airplanes packed with C-4 plastic explosives to attack the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol.
Ferdaus allegedly traveled to Washington, D.C. to take photos of his targets in May 2011, all while under FBI surveillance. The Northeastern University graduate allegedly began planning to commit “jihad” against the United States in early 2010 and obtained mobile phones that he modified to act as an electrical switch for an IED.
Ferdaus allegedly supplied the phones to undercover FBI agents that he thought were members of or recruiters for al Qaeda. He allegedly thought the devices would be used to kill American soldiers overseas.
The feds said in a press release that Ferdaus “was anxious to know how well each of his detonation devices had worked and how many Americans they had killed.” They said that during recorded conversations, “Ferdaus stated that he devised the idea of attacking the Pentagon long before he met with the government’s cooperating witness (CW) and UC, and that his jihad had, ‘started last year.’”
Starting in Jan. 2011, Ferdaus had recorded conversations with a cooperating witness in which he allegedly disclosed that he planned to attack the Pentagon with “small drone airplanes” that were filled with explosives and could be guided by GPS equipment. He allegedly expanded his plan in April to include the Capitol.
“It’s a small, drone aircraft that would be programmed at that target and can just hit that… a model airplane that can carry a good enough payload and it will detonate on impact,” Fedaus explained at an early meeting with the cooperating witness, who has a criminal record and has served time in prison.
Ferdaus, a U.S. citizen, allegedly showed the cooperating witness electrical components and remote controlled cars that he had built and indicated that he “used to be into robotics” and “learned a lot of stuff on [his] own.”
Ferdaus also allegedly took the cooperating witness to a Toys ‘R’ Us store where he bought a rocket (which he said was “a diversion”) and rocket motors, which he said could be hooked up to a cell phone and could contain enough explosive power to be the “preliminary boom.”
His attack on the Capitol, Ferdaus later explained, would have a “psychological” impact, and he discussed hitting the building in the “right place, say the dome.” After the death of his “boss” — Osama bin Laden — Ferdaus explained that he could use “Google Earth… to pick the coordinates.”
“I just can’t stop; there is no other choice for me,” Ferdaus allegedly said in one recorded conversation.
The feds say FBI agents offered Ferdaus multiple opportunities to back out of the plan, but he allegedly “never wavered in his desire to carry out the attacks.”
An FBI agent described Ferdaus’ plan that he delivered on a thumb drive to people that he thought were members of al Qaeda as “extremely detailed, well-written, and annotated with numerous pictures (copied from encyclopedias or resource materials from the library and the Internet) and diagrams.”
The plan, delivered on two thumb drives in May and June 2011, contained “detailed attack plans with step-by-step instructions as to how he planned to attack the Pentagon and Capitol,” according to the feds. “The plans included using three remote controlled aircraft and six people, including himself whom he described as an ‘amir,’ i.e., an Arabic term meaning leader.”
Things came to a point on Wednesday, when undercover agents let Ferdaus inspect the C-4 explosives, three grenades and six fully-automatic AK-47 assault rifles that he had requested for his attack plan. After inspecting the components, the feds said “Ferdaus brought them to his storage unit, took possession of the explosives and firearms, and locked them in his storage unit.” Ferdaus was immediately arrested.
Ferdaus allegedly took this surveillance photo of the Pentagon during his trip to the D.C. area:
Here are two photos the FBI provided that show the type of remote controlled planes Ferdaus was allegedly trying to use. One was a F-4 Phantom, the other was a F-86 Sabre, according to the FBI affidavit. They are smaller scale versions of U.S. military fighter jets that range from 60 to 80 inches in length and have a wingspan range of 44 to 63 inches.
Affidavit embedded below.