Times Square suspect feared being called ‘Looney Tunes terrorist’

A student who plotted a Times Square terror attack feared being known as the “Looney Tunes terrorist” if his glasses fell off, a court has heard.

Ashiqul Alam, who is said to have spent months trying to stockpile guns and grenades, was arrested on Thursday after arranging to buy a pair of semi-automatic pistols through an undercover agent, federal prosecutors said.

The suspect spoke of plotting to kill civilians and police officers in Times Square and targeting a senior government official in Washington, according to court documents.

Alam appeared at a court in Brooklyn on Friday
Image: The 22-year-old appeared at a court in Brooklyn on Friday

The 22-year-old, who is said to have heaped praise on Islamic State and Osama Bin Laden, is accused of planning an attack for months.

He allegedly told an undercover investigator it would make them “legends”.

Alam is said to have told the officer in April he was planning to get laser eye surgery so he wouldn’t have to wear glasses during the attack.

He allegedly said in a recorded conversation: “Let’s say we are in an attack, right, that my glasses fall off.

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“What if I accidentally shoot you? You know what I mean?”

He added: “Imagine what the news channel would call me, ‘the Looney Tunes terrorist’ or ‘the blind terrorist’.”

It is also claimed Alam talked about wanting to “shoot down” homosexuals, referring to them with a slur, and using a “rocket launcher, like a huge one” to cause havoc at the World Trade Center.

And he discussed obtaining an enhanced driver’s licence so he could walk on to a military base and “blow it up”, the court heard.

Alam is accused of planning an attack on New York's Time Square
Image: Alam is accused of planning an attack on New York’s Times Square

He allegedly started discussing his plans with the agent last August and went with him on reconnaissance trips to Times Square and to a shooting range in Pennsylvania.

Alam discussed buying a silencer, ammunition and hand grenades, which he said could each “take out at least eight people”, the court heard.

He is said to have “repeatedly expressed interest in purchasing firearms and explosives for a terrorist attack in the New York City area” during conversations and spoke glowingly about past attacks on the city.

Alam used his cellphone to take video of Times Square and “explained to the undercover agent that he was looking for potential targets”, the court heard.

Police commissioner James O’Neill has said his arrest over the attempted purchase of the guns was a “clear indicator of (Alam’s) intent to move his plot forward”.

Despite the terror allegations, Alam is charged only with offences related to the buying of the weapons.

The suspect, wearing blue jeans and a purple T-shirt, did not enter a plea at an initial court appearance in Brooklyn on Friday.

Defence attorney James Darrow argued Alam should be released on a $200,000 (£157,000) bond, adding his client has a solid background and the charges he is facing so far do not include terrorism.

But a federal magistrate ordered the suspect should be held without bail after prosecutors argued that he was a danger to the community and a flight risk.

The defendant, a legal US resident born in Bangladesh, moved to America as a child about 12 years ago.

He has lived in Queens, New York, with his parents while attending John Jay College of Criminal Justice and working two jobs, his lawyer said.

Family members who attended Alam’s hearing left without speaking to reporters.

Times Square, the heart of the Broadway theatre district and packed with tourists day and night, has been a target of attacks before.

Faisal Shahzad, a US citizen who had gotten explosives training in Pakistan, tried but failed to detonate a car bomb there.

He was sentenced to life in prison.

Akayed Ullah, a Bangladesh immigrant detonated a bomb in a bomb in an underground pedestrian concourse linking the Times Square subway station to the Port Authority Bus Terminal in 2017.

Only Ullah was seriously hurt, though bystanders were injured by shrapnel.

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, in 2017.

Police always have a heavy presence in Times Square, and its sidewalks and plazas are partially protected with steel posts intended to stop vehicles.

Source: SKY NEWS

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