Echoes of Anwar al-Awlaki in Fed Bank bomb plot

Last Updated Oct 18, 2012 11:42 AM EDT

(CBS News) Until the handcuffs went on, alleged Federal Reserve Bank bomb plotter Quasi Nafis never suspected his two New York accomplices were working for the FBI, and now Homeland Security investigation agents are digging to find out if there are any real accomplices anywhere else.

FBI agents are pouring through papers, computers, thumb drives, and CDs pulled from Nafis' New York apartment. According to the FBI affidavit, Nafis claimed to have connections to al Qaeda overseas. Investigators are trying to determine if those claims were true.

Quazi Nafis
Quazi Nafis, in an undated photo
CBS News

Nafis allegedly told an FBI undercover agent he was working with another man named "Yaqueen." Sources tell CBS News that "Yaqueen" has been identified as a San Diego man named Willie Carter, who was arrested Thursday, accused of possession of child pornography. FBI sources say Yaqueen was in contact with Nafis, but does not appear to have a role in the bomb plot.

On the narrow street in Bangladesh where the accused terrorist once lived, Nafis mother prayed as his father, a bank official, told CBS News he spent his life savings to send his son to college in America.

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"He wanted to go to the U.S. for higher education," Quazi Ahsanullah said. "That would create better job opportunity for him."

He said his son was a gentle boy who could not be involved in this plot.

Nafis is being held without bail. His case is the latest in a series of FBI bomb stings.

In 2009, Hosam Smadi tried to detonate a truck with a fake bomb outside Dallas skyscraper.

Last February, Amine al Khalifi was arrested walking toward the U.S. Capitol wearing what he believed was a suicide vest.

Most recently, in September in Chicago, Adel Daoud is charged with trying to detonate a car bomb -- also fake -- in front of a popular Chicago bar.

In each one of those cases, just as in this latest plot in New York, one of the key influences on these men was Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed in a drone strike. It's interesting to know, even after Awlaki's death, his message on YouTube still resonates and, because he's American-born, still resonates, as we're seeing.

One question that remains looking over the litany of cases the FBI has intercepted is: Have we been lucky this whole time?

They've been very good about having ears and eyes in the right places, so when someone is trying to put together a cell, the FBI has been pretty adept at inserting themselves and providing the capability for the person who has the intent.

What's interesting to note is there are cases that completely flew under the radar. Remember the man who put a truck bomb in Times Square that only didn't detonate because he had a mistake in his technical bomb making, or the underwear bomber on a plane headed to Detroit.

There have been close calls and lucky moments.

  • John Miller

    John Miller is a senior correspondent for CBS News, with extensive experience in intelligence, law enforcement and journalism, including stints in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the FBI.

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