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Suspect admits terror scheme; Ashland man faces 17 years.

Byline: Lee Hammel

BOSTON - A 26-year-old Ashland man who sought to bomb the U.S. Capitol building and Pentagon, hoping for "the downfall of this entire disgusting place," pleaded guilty yesterday in U.S. District Court to two terrorism-related charges.

Under his plea agreement, Rezwan Ferdaus faces 17 years in prison followed by 10 years of supervision. Judge Richard G. Stearns set sentencing for Nov. 1.

Mr. Ferdaus was arrested in September by the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force after he ordered and received automatic weapons and plastic explosives from undercover FBI employees whom Mr. Ferdaus believed were members of al-Qaida.

Mr. Ferdaus, who has a degree in physics from Northeastern University, planned to place the explosives in remote controlled planes that he had ordered. The planes were to be flown into the dome of the Capitol and two sides of the Pentagon.

Mr. Ferdaus, a Muslim, admitted yesterday that he previously delivered cellphones that he had altered so they could be used to detonate improvised explosive devices to kill American military in Iraq. The undercover agents falsely told Mr. Ferdaus that they had been used and succeeded in killing three U.S. soldiers, Assistant U.S. Attorney B. Stephanie Siegmann said, and the defendant expressed happiness, saying "that is exactly what I wanted."

She said that Mr. Ferdaus repeatedly told the undercover operatives that his intention was "to terrorize the United States and kill as many kafirs (non-believers) as possible."

Judge Stearns said that if he accepts the agreement crafted by the U.S. Attorney's office and federal public defenders Miriam Conrad and Catherine K. Byrne, then he cannot alter the proposed 17-year sentence.

The two charges, attempting to destroy a federal building with an explosive and attempting to provide material support to terrorists, carry a maximum combined sentence of 35 years and a $500,000 fine.

Mr. Ferdaus' mother was helped out of the courtroom sobbing, while Mr. Ferdaus was led out in handcuffs and leg chains to a chorus of "we love you Rezwan" from about 17 supporters. His father said, "We love him and very much support him."

Previously Mr. Ferdaus' mental status was raised by the defense. But the prosecutor said yesterday that the defense never asked for a mental health evaluation.

Mr. Ferdaus told Judge Stearns yesterday that he had been treated for mild depression and anxiety prior to his indictment and that he had taken an anti-anxiety medication as recently as Thursday night.

At a press conference, First Assistant U.S. Attorney Jack Pirozzolo said Mr. Ferdaus posed a "real threat" and said "the lone wolf" home-grown terrorist is an increasingly significant problem for authorities. Mr. Ferdaus is intelligent, has technical ability and intent, he said.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Richard DesLauriers said, "The FBI and its Joint Terrorism Task Force partners fulfilled its most important mission by detecting and preventing Mr. Ferdaus' plot, the goal of which was an unlawful and violet affront to our nation's cherished ideal of peaceful dissent."

Mr. Ferdaus was introduced to the FBI undercover employees, whom he was told were members of al Qaida, by a cooperating witness who went to the Worcester Islamic Center in December 2010 to make contact with the defendant.

By the following March, the Islamic Center sent a letter threatening to ban the Ashland man. It recounted behavior such as disruption of lectures and telling visiting non-Muslim women that they were not welcome at the center.

Mr. DesLauriers singled out the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the federal air marshals and the police in Worcester, Ashland and Framingham.

At the press conference was Worcester Detective Sgt. Thomas Radula, who supervises JTTF member Worcester Detective T.J. Coakley.

Detective Sgt. Radula said, "The Worcester Police Department is proud to be a member of the Joint Terrorism Task Force."

ART: PHOTO

CUTLINE: Mr. Ferdaus
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Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jul 21, 2012
Words:645
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