US man held over 'Pentagon plot'


US authorities yesterday arrested and charged a Massachusetts man with plotting to damage or destroy the Pentagon and US Capitol by using remote-controlled aircraft filled with plastic explosives.

Rezwan Ferdaus (26), a US citizen, was also charged with attempting to provide support and resources to al-Qaeda in order to carry out attacks on U.S. soldiers overseas, the US attorney's office in Boston said. He was arrested after an undercover operation.

"The conduct alleged today shows that Mr. Ferdaus had long planned to commit violent acts against our country," US Attorney Carmen Ortiz said in a statement.

The statement said the public was never in danger from the explosive devices, which were controlled by undercover FBI employees.

If convicted, Mr Ferdaus faces up to 15 years in jail for providing support to foreign terrorists, up to 20 years on a charge of attempting to destroy national defence premises, and up to 20 years on a charge of attempting to damage and destroy buildings owned by the United States.

In a 42-page affidavit, authorities said the physics graduate from Northeastern University in Boston began planning to commit a violent "jihad" against the United States in early 2010, calling Americans "enemies of Allah."

Mr Ferdaus, of Ashland, Massachusetts, about 40km west of Boston, allegedly modified mobile phones to act as electrical switches for improvised explosive devices. He is accused of supplying the phones to the undercover FBI agents, whom he believed were members of, or recruiters for, al-Qaeda.

"During a June 2011 meeting, he appeared gratified when he was told that his first phone detonation device had killed three US soldiers and injured four or five others in Iraq. Mr Ferdaus responded: 'That was exactly what I wanted,'" the affidavit said.

Mr Ferdaus allegedly told a cooperating witness that he planned to attack the Pentagon using "small drone airplanes" filled with explosives and guided by GPS equipment. He later expanded the plot to include an attack on the US Capitol, and hoped to follow up the aerial assault with a ground assault involving six people armed with automatic weapons, according to the affidavit.