Physics graduate Ferdaus created terror plot because of ‘how evil’ US was

By Zack Sampson, News Staff

A federal grand jury today indicted Northeastern University graduate Rezwan Ferdaus on charges related to his alleged plan to launch an aerial and ground assault on the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol.

Ferdaus was charged with attempting to damage and destroy a federal building by means of an explosive, attempting to damage and destroy national defense premises, receipt of explosive materials, receipt and possession of non-registered firearms, attempting to provide material support to terrorists and attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization.

Read the indictment (PDF)

Ferdaus, a 26-year-old Ashland resident who received a bachelor’s degree in physics from Northeastern in 2008, began planning a violent jihad against the United States in early 2010. In an affidavit he swore to on Wednesday, FBI Special Agent Gary S. Cacace wrote that Ferdaus was first motivated by jihadi websites and videos that he said revealed “how evil” the United States is.

Ferdaus helped found the Latin-influenced Goosepimp Orchestra in 2004, while he was a student at Northeastern. He was the band’s original drummer, known as “Bollywood.” Ferdaus’ biography was removed from the band’s website, but a cached copy has a description that says Ferdaus left the band to become “a devout spiritual practitioner.”

Ferdaus graduated from Ashland High School in 2004 and was implicated in a prank with two friends at the end of his senior year that involved pouring concrete in front of school doors (see the court docket PDF). According to an Ashland Police Department incident report, he and his friends were also accused of burning the school’s tennis nets and an American flag, but all three denied involvement in all incidents except the pouring of concrete.

Ferdaus worked on his jihad with two undercover FBI agents and a cooperating witness. He thought they were all al-Qaeda recruiters providing him with AK-47 assault rifles, grenades and plastic explosives. At various points, he used the aliases Dave Winfield and Jon Ramos.

The foundation of Ferdaus’ plan was a design to fly two model airplanes, each packed with five pounds of plastic explosive, into opposite sides of the Pentagon, according to Cacace’s affidavit. He also allegedly hoped to topple the US Capitol’s dome with another model plane.

Cacace wrote that Ferdaus further planned to launch a six-man “ground directive” with automatic weapons immediately after the aerial assault. He reportedly enjoyed the prospect of shooting politicians and described the attack as a way to “open up” on victims displaced by the model airplane explosions.

Ferdaus met with the undercover FBI personnel multiple times between January and September as his plan developed. He provided the agents with cell phone detonators intended for improvised explosive devices he believed were used to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan. As time passed, he became more involved with the launch of his jihad and even advised the undercover operatives that he could make more than 20 such detonation devices a week for his “brothers” overseas, according to Cacace’s affidavit (PDF).

During their operation, FBI personnel gave Ferdaus multiple chances to back out of his involvement in the terrorist plot, according to the affidavit. Cacace wrote however that Ferdaus did not relent and instead explained that he wanted to “hit the kafir [non-believer] armies and [kill] as many people as possible.”