NBC News correspondent Pete Williams describes what investigators said they revealed.
Authorities arrested a Massachusetts man suspected of plotting to attack the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol with large, remote-controlled aircraft carrying plastic explosives, the Department of Justice announced.
Rezwan Ferdaus, of Ashland, Mass., planned to launch C-4-filled remote-controlled planes from East Potomac Park, authorities said. His plot also included two teams of three people armed with automatic weapons that would fire on the targets following the explosions in order to “take out” everyone amid the chaos.
“The conduct alleged today shows that Mr. Ferdaus had long planned to commit violent acts against our country, including attacks on the Pentagon and our nation’s Capitol,” U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said. “Thanks to the diligence of the FBI and our many other law enforcement partners, that plan was thwarted.”
The FBI first learned of Ferdaus’s Pentagon plot while undercover agents posing as al Qaeda recruiters were accepting cell phones the 26-year-old modified to serve as electrical switches for improvised explosive devices to be used overseas, according to court documents. Ferdaus seemed happy when he was told that his first cell phone detonator killed three soldiers, the agents said, and he often asked about how his detonators worked in the future.
Ferdaus was recorded over the summer talking about his Pentagon plot and his jihad that started last year, according to court documents. He later expanded it to include the Capitol.
He was also recorded saying he wanted to cause a large psychological impact by killing Americans.
“I just can’t stop,” he said, according to an affidavit. “There’s no other choice for me.”
After taking possession of the 6-7 foot model planes and what he believed were explosives and firearms from undercover agents, authorities arrested Ferdaus and charged him with providing material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organization charge, attempting to destroy national defense premises, and attempting to damage and destroy buildings owned by the U.S. by using explosives.
He faces up to 55 years in prison. Each charge also carries up to three years supervised release and a $250,000 fine.