MIDTOWN MANHATTAN — Federal authorities arrested a Queens man Thursday whom they accused of plotting a terrorist attack on Times Square.
Ashiqul Alam of Jackson Heights made reconnaissance trips to the Manhattan landmark, considered a variety of weapons and even got surgery to improve his eyesight as he planned the attack, according to a criminal complaint filed in Brooklyn federal court.
Alam, 22, discussed the idea extensively with an undercover law-enforcement officer over about 10 months, then bought a pair of Glock pistols from two other undercover agents just before his Thursday arrest, officials said.
Alam also praised the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the late Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden and the Islamic State terrorist group, the complaint says. He has been charged with receiving the two guns that had their serial numbers removed, prosecutors said.
“There is more to this case than just talk and the desire to carry out a terrorist attack,” Bill Sweeney, the New York FBI’s assistand director-in-charge, said in a statement. “Individuals who believe in the distorted and deadly propaganda of terrorist organizations and work toward acting on those deadly impulses are incredibly dangerous and unpredictable.”
Alam contemplated carrying out an attack on either Times Square or Washington, D.C. and talked about using several different weapons, including a “suicide vest,” grenades and assault rifles, the criminal complaint says.
Alam and the undercover officer made two “recon” trips to Times Square in January of this year on which Alam identified Father Duffy Square as a specific potential target, the complaint says. “(M)ost of the people are there you know, it makes more impact,” Alam allegedly said, according to the complaint.
Alam and the officer also made two trips to a shooting range in Pennsylvania, the complaint says. On the second trip in late April, Alam allegedly said that he had an appointment for Lasik eye surgery because he wanted to avoid shooting his partner.
“Let’s say we are in an attack, right, say that my glasses fall off. What if I accidentally shoot you?” Alam told the officer, according to the complaint. “You know what I mean. Imagine what the news channel would call me the ‘Looney Tunes Terrorist’ or the ‘Blind Terrorist.'”
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Alam and the officer met with two other undercovers who were posing as a gun dealer and gun supplier in May, authorities say. After that meeting Alam fawned over an AK-47 assault rifle and some hand grenades, but ultimately decided to buy two Glock pistols for $400 apiece, according to the complaint.
The four met again at the undercover officer’s Brooklyn apartment on Thursday, where Alam put four $100 bills toward the two guns before he was arrested, the complaint says.
Alam was appeared Friday afternoon before a federal magistrate judge, who ordered him detained, the Brooklyn U.S. Attorney’s Office said. The next court hearing in his case is scheduled for June 21, the office said.
Patch editor Noah Manskar contributed reporting.