Authorities said Alam and the undercover agent went to to Times Square on at least two occasions to perform “recognizance” to determine where Alam could strike in order to affect the most people in a suicide bomb attack. Investigators said he suggested that if they were unable to get explosives, they could instead use grenades.
He was arrested Thursday after buying two firearms with obliterated serial numbers from undercover agents, officials said.
“As alleged, Ashiqul Alam bought illegal weapons as part of his plan to kill law enforcement officers and civilians in a terrorist attack on Times Square,” U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue said in a statement. “What he did not know was that he was buying weapons from government agents, who were monitoring his plans and intervening to prevent those plans from escalating into deadly violence.”
Alam has been charged with illegally purchasing untraceable firearms from undercover officers. He was expected to appear in court Friday afternoon.
Authorities continue to investigate.
Original report: Two unidentified police sources told The Associated Press the man, whose name was not released, was placed under investigation after he talked about wanting to throw a grenade in Times Square. He was arrested late Thursday on weapons-related charges, according to the AP.
Investigators told WCBS the Joint Terrorism Task Force, which includes New York police and the FBI, arrested the man after they set up an undercover operation to catch him trying to buy weapons. Authorities believe he was acting alone, according to WCBS.
Authorities told the AP the man's statements were "aspirational" and that he never developed his plans far enough to endanger the public. He's expected to be arraigned Friday in a federal courthouse in Brooklyn. Officials with the U.S. Attorney's Office are expected to provide more details on the arrest later Friday, according to WABC-TV.
Times Square has been a target of attacks before. An Islamic militant tried to detonate a car bomb there in 2010.
In 2017, a man detonated a bomb in a tunnel linking the square to a bus terminal.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.