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Accused Pentagon plotter risk to others-prosecutors

Booking mug of Rezwan Ferdaus
Booking mug of Rezwan Ferdaus

By Lauren Keiper

WORCESTER, Mass (Reuters) - Prosecutors on Monday described a Massachusetts man accused of plotting to attack U.S. targets using model aircraft as a "ticking time bomb" who should not be released to home confinement before a trial.

Rezwan Ferdaus, a 26-year-old U.S. citizen, has pleaded not guilty to charges he plotted to fly remote-control, explosives-laden aircraft into the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol and to follow up the attacks with a ground assault.

Ferdaus, whose case has renewed concerns about the risk of home-grown militant attacks, also was accused of attempting to provide material support and resources to al Qaeda. He was arrested after an undercover operation.

"The defendant should be detained for the safety of the community," said prosecutor Stephanie Siegmann during a detention hearing in U.S. District Court in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Prosecutors said Ferdaus had been warned before his arrest about hostile and threatening behavior at a religious center he attended, and that he was committed to jihad and his goal was to terrorize the United States.

Ferdaus had even talked about making homemade explosives, prosecutors said.

His defense team requested he be released under house arrest to his family's home in Ashland, Massachusetts, about 25 miles west of Boston, and would explore the possibility of bail with his parents.

Defense attorneys called the attack plan "fantasy," similar to a video game.

"It is clear, that on his own, without the FBI, Mr. Ferdaus would not have done anything," public defender Miriam Conrad said.

He did not know how to obtain explosives or assault weapons and did not make any effort to reach out to al Qaeda on his own before he was introduced to two undercover FBI employees, Conrad said.

Ferdaus, a physics graduate from Northeastern University in Boston, was arrested and charged in September.

Authorities said in an affidavit that he began planning to commit a violent "jihad" against the United States in early 2010.

He allegedly modified mobile phones to act as electrical switches for improvised explosive devices, authorities said, and is accused of supplying the phones to undercover FBI employees he believed were al Qaeda members or recruiters.

If convicted, Ferdaus faces up to 15 years in jail for providing support to foreign terrorists, up to 20 years for attempting to destroy national defense premises, and up to 20 years for attempting to damage and destroy buildings owned by the United States.