A 21-year-old Bangladeshi man pleaded guilty Thursday to charges that he tried to set off a huge bomb outside the Federal Reserve bank in New York -- not knowing the device was a law enforcement decoy.
"Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis, 21, pleaded guilty," federal prosecutor Loretta Lynch said in a statement.
"The charge to which Nafis pleaded guilty, attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, carries a sentence of up to life imprisonment."
Nafis admitted that he planned to detonate what he had been told would be a 1,000-pound bomb outside the federal bank in the heavily guarded financial district of lower Manhattan.
Nafis met with an undercover agent who posed as an Al-Qaeda sympathizer and supplied 20 bags of dummy explosive.
On the day of the planned attack, October 17, 2012, Nafis assembled the phony bomb, then drove to the bank in a van and parked outside.
In a nearby hotel he recorded a video statement in which he said: "We will not stop until we attain victory or martyrdom." When he tried repeatedly to detonate the bomb, he was arrested.
Nafis, who was previously recorded making inflammatory statements about his desire to "destroy America" and his "beloved" Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden, is now contrite, his lawyer said.
"He's deeply and sincerely sorry for what he did," she said in remarks on NY1 television.
Nafis came to the United States to study at a Missouri college, but left and, officials say, showed increasing signs of radical affiliations.
In his native Bangladesh, security officials said Nafis had not been on their radar prior to his departure. Nafis's family in Dhaka told AFP that he had been religious, but never political.
Nafis "never showed any form of radicalization when he was in Bangladesh," his brother-in-law Arik said.