By TOM HAYS and MICHAEL R. SISAK Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — A New York City man plotted to use guns, grenades and suicide vests to bring bloodshed to Times Square, federal prosecutors said Friday.
Ashiqul Alam was arrested Thursday after arranging through an undercover agent to buy a pair of pistols whose serial numbers had been obliterated, prosecutors said. Alam also discussed buying a silencer, ammunition and hand grenades, which he said could each “take out at least eight people,” prosecutors said.
Alam, 22, of Queens, was expected to be arraigned Friday on weapons-related offenses, but court documents filed in connection with the case describe months of plotting for a terrorist attack aimed at killing civilians and law enforcement officers in Times Square.
Alam started speaking with the undercover agent about his plans last August and went with him on a reconnaissance trip to the bustling Manhattan tourist district in January, the documents said.
Alam “repeatedly expressed interest in purchasing firearms and explosives for a terrorist attack in the New York City area” and spoke about terrorist organizations including ISIS during conversations with the undercover agent, the court documents said.
Alam used his cellphone to take video of Times Square and “explained to the undercover that he was looking for potential targets,” according to the documents.
Alam’s lawyer, James Darrow, declined comment.
Times Square, which is in the heart of the Broadway theater district and is packed with tourists day and night, has been a target of attacks before.
In 2010, Faisal Shahzad, a U.S. citizen who had gotten explosives training in Pakistan, tried but failed to detonate a car bomb there. He was sentenced to life in prison.
In 2017, a Bangladeshi immigrant, Akayed Ullah, detonated a bomb in an underground pedestrian concourse linking the Times Square subway station to the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Only Ullah was seriously hurt, though bystanders were injured by shrapnel.
That same year, a man who told police he was high on drugs and hearing voices drove his car into the square’s crowds, killing a teenager and injuring around 20 people.
Police always have a heavy presence in Times Square and its sidewalks and plazas are partially protected with steel posts intended to stop speeding vehicles.