Man accused of plotting attack on Times Square arrested on firearm charge

Authorities in New York City on Thursday arrested a man suspected of plotting to detonate explosives in Times Square.

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Update 2:25 p.m. EDT June 7: Authorities identified the suspect as Ashiqul Alam,

22, a Bangladeshi citizen and lawful permanent resident living in Queens, New York.

In a complaint filed in court, FBI special agent Sean Dillon said an undercover agent first met with Alam in August 2018. During subsequent meet ups, Alam praised the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and talked about wearing an explosive vest and detonating it as part of a potential attack in New York City or Washington D.C., according to the complaint.

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“There is more to this case than just talk and the desire to carry out a terrorist attack,” William Sweeny, assistant director-in-charge of the FBI’s New York field office, said Friday 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.”

Authorities said Alam and the undercover agent went to to Times Square on at least two occasions to perform “recognizance” to determine where Alam could strike in order to affect the most people in a suicide bomb attack. Investigators said he suggested that if they were unable to get explosives, they could instead use grenades.

He was arrested Thursday after buying two firearms with obliterated serial numbers from undercover agents, officials said.

“As alleged, Ashiqul Alam bought illegal weapons as part of his plan to kill law enforcement officers and civilians in a terrorist attack on Times Square,” U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue said in a statement. “What he did not know was that he was buying weapons from government agents, who were monitoring his plans and intervening to prevent those plans from escalating into deadly violence.”

Alam has been charged with illegally purchasing untraceable firearms from undercover officers. He was expected to appear in court Friday afternoon.

Authorities continue to investigate.

Original report: Two unidentified police sources told The Associated Press the man, whose name was not released, was placed under investigation after he talked about wanting to throw a grenade in Times Square. He was arrested late Thursday on weapons-related charges, according to the AP.

Investigators told WCBS the Joint Terrorism Task Force, which includes New York police and the FBI, arrested the man after they set up an undercover operation to catch him trying to buy weapons. Authorities believe he was acting alone, according to WCBS.

Authorities told the AP the man's statements were "aspirational" and that he never developed his plans far enough to endanger the public. He's expected to be arraigned Friday in a federal courthouse in Brooklyn. Officials with the U.S. Attorney's Office are expected to provide more details on the arrest later Friday, according to WABC-TV.

Times Square has been a target of attacks before. An Islamic militant tried to detonate a car bomb there in 2010.

In 2017, a man detonated a bomb in a tunnel linking the square to a bus terminal.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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