A 22-year-old Queens man who lived with his parents and allegedly wanted to shoot up Times Square has been arrested after federal authorities who had been surveilling him say he tried to buy guns, prosecutors say.
The suspect, identified as Ashiqul Alam, of Jackson Heights, had been under surveillance by the New York FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) for some time but his alleged efforts to buy two Glock 19 9mm semi-automatic pistols with removed serial numbers Thursday prompted his arrest, according to the criminal complaint revealed filed Friday in Brooklyn federal court.
Federal law enforcement officials say Alam is not expected to face terrorism charges, though he allegedly made comments that were jihadist in nature as to why he allegedly wanted to target the Crossroads of the World. In a complaint filed Friday, investigators allege Alam praised the 9/11 attacks during a conversation with an undercover agent. "The mission is a complete success, thousands of American soldiers died and trillions of their moneys are gone in the war,” he allegedly said.
Alam, of Bangladeshi descent, also allegedly made references to al Qaida and ISIS but did not pledge allegiance to the terror groups, a senior law enforcement official said. It is alleged he said he wanted to see the "flag of Islam on the Twin Towers or the Empire State Building."
He is a legal permanent resident with a green card, sources say.
Alam had been closely monitored by authorities; an undercover helped track him. He had allegedly spoken of wanting to get or use a suicide bomb vest and talked of hand grenades and explosives. “When it blows up, those balls explode and the metal goes everywhere. The more better the explosives the more farther the shrapnel could go,” he allegedly said about the vest.
According to the complaint, Alam said he wanted to use the guns he bought to "try to shoot" gay people and that he wanted to get laser eye surgery so his glasses wouldn't fall off during an attack, fearing he might shoot an associate and be labeled "the Looney Tunes terrorist" or the "blind terrorist" by the press.
He also allegedly spoke of potential attacks on politicians in New York City and Washington, D.C., before coming around to wanting to shoot up Times Square, the official said. On Jan. 4 this year, he allegedly used a cellphone to take surveillance footage of Times Square to identify possible targets, the complaint alleges. Later that month it says he went to a shooting range with the undercover agent to practice shooting.
Alam was ordered held without bail at an appearance in Brooklyn federal court on face weapons-related charges. Information on a possible attorney for him wasn't immediately available.
There is no imminent threat to Times Square but law enforcement was taking the alleged threats by this lone actor seriously, the officials said.
Because of its iconic global status, Times Square has been a frequent target for aspiring terrorists.
Faisal Shahzad is currently serving life in prison for his failed 2010 attempt to set off a car bomb in Times Square.
Late last year, a Canadian man was sentenced to 40 years in prison for plotting attacks on the square and subways in 2016.