A US green-card holder from Bangladesh was charged with illegally acquiring firearms as part of a plan to attack Times Square, one of mid-town Manhattan’s most crowded crossroads, federal officials said yesterday.
Ashiqul Alam, 22, from Jackson Heights in the city’s Queens borough, was arrested on Thursday after receiving two Glock 19 nine millimetre semi-automatic pistols with their serial numbers stripped off from undercover law enforcement officers, according to a complaint unsealed yesterday in Brooklyn federal court.
Alam, who is from Bangladesh, is not being charged with any terrorism-related crimes, reports The New York times, quoting a law en-forcement official.
During meetings with an undercover federal agent, Alam expressed support for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in New York as well as the mili-tant group Islamic State, according to the com-plaint. He also discussed using an explosive sui-cide vest in an attack.
“As alleged, Ashiqul Alam bought illegal weap-ons as part of his plan to kill law enforcement officers and civilians in a terrorist attack on Times Square,” US Attorney Richard Donoghue, whose office brought the charges, said in a statement.
Alam was expected to appear in US District Court in Brooklyn later yesterday.
With its millions of visitors each year, Times Square, often called the crossroads of the world, has been targeted by at least two bombers in recent years, despite its heavily-fortified police presence.
On May 1, 2010, police thwarted an attempted car bomb in Times Square, defusing a crude de-vice made out of firecrackers and propane gas tanks.
A Pakistani-born US citizen pleaded guilty to the plot, admitting that he had received bomb-making training from the Pakistani Taliban and that the group, known as Tehrik-e-Taliban Paki-stan had funded the plot. He was sentenced to life in prison.
In December 2017, a Bangladeshi man set off a homemade pipe bomb strapped to his body in a crowded underground pedestrian tunnel near Times Square. The man, Akayed Ullah, was convicted of six criminal counts, including use of a weapon of mass destruction and support of a terrorist organisation.
On Friday morning, it was business as usual in Times Square, with a bustle of people on their way to work and tourists beginning to stream into the area.
Kate Fan, a 28-year-old charity worker visiting from her home in Guangzhou, China, said that she heard about the incident but still felt safe.
“We hear a lot of stories about New York being unsafe, but we feel like people sometimes ex-aggerate safety issues,” she said.