WASHINGTON — A young Bangladeshi man accused of plotting to blow up the New York Federal Reserve entered the United States on a student visa which was issued in December, US officials confirmed Thursday.
Authorities in New York allege Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis traveled to the country with "the purpose of conducting a terrorist attack" and sought out Al-Qaeda contacts after his arrival.
But the State Department confirmed Nafis, 21, had an F class visa, which is a "student visa to attend a legitimate academic program in the United States for which he was qualified," spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
She stressed that each application for a visa to the United States is "looked at on a case-by-case basis, taking into account all of the information contained in the US government databases."
Nafis was arrested in Manhattan on Wednesday after he tried to detonate what he thought was a live bomb, but was actually a dummy provided in a sting operation, federal prosecutors in Brooklyn said.
They said he had traveled to the United States in January 2012. "Nafis, who reported having overseas connections to Al-Qaeda, attempted to recruit individuals to form a terrorist cell inside the United States," the prosecutor's office said.
"Nafis also actively sought out Al-Qaeda contacts within the United States to assist him in carrying out an attack. Unbeknownst to Nafis, one of the individuals he attempted to recruit was actually a source for the FBI."
But his family in Dhaka were baffled by Nafis's arrest, saying he had never displayed any radical tendencies.
He had moved to the United States to study at Missouri Southern State University, but his father Quazi Mohammad Ahsanullah told AFP that he had only completed one semester.
"It was too costly. He went to New York and then took a job at a hotel," the father said. He had been working 10-hours a day to save up for a computer science course, as other relatives alleged he had fallen for an FBI trap.
In 2011, the United States issued some 476,000 student visas worldwide, of which 1,136 were in Bangladesh.
Those people on student visas are tracked and monitored by an Internet-based system operated by the Department of Homeland Security known as the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).
State Department officials also confirmed that the government in Bangladesh has so far not asked for any help from Washington in this case.
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