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Prosecutors urge that terror suspect be kept in jail

Lawyers say he’s mentally troubled

WORCESTER - A man accused of plotting to fly remote-controlled model planes packed with explosives into the Pentagon and US Capitol is a “ticking time bomb’’ who is committed to attacking the United States, a prosecutor said yesterday while urging a judge to keep him locked up while he awaits trial.

But lawyers for Rezwan Ferdaus, 26, argued for his release from jail, saying he is a mentally troubled man who had a “completely unrealistic fantasy’’ that had no chance of succeeding.

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Ferdaus, of Ashland, was arrested in September after undercover FBI agents posing as members of Al Qaeda delivered what they say he believed was 25 pounds of C-4 plastic explosives.

Prosecutors say he asked the undercover agents to get him the explosives, AK-47 assault rifles, and grenades so he could carry out the attacks. Authorities say he also showed them cellphones he had fashioned into detonators.

Ferdaus, who has a physics degree from Northeastern University, faces six charges, including attempting to provide material support to terrorists and attempting to damage and destroy national defense premises.

His lawyers are asking that he be released on bail and placed in the custody of his father until trial.

Prosecutors argued during a detention hearing yesterday in US District Court that he is dangerous and should remain behind bars. There was no immediate ruling from US Magistrate Judge Timothy Hillman.

Stephanie Siegmann, assistant US attorney, said Ferdaus began plotting an attack on the United States in 2010, before the FBI sent an informant and later undercover agents to meet with him and record their conversations.

FBI agent Bradley Davis testified that agents interviewed Ferdaus in October 2010 after he went into a gun shop, asked about purchasing weapons, acted suspiciously, and took a photograph.

The gun shop’s owner took down Ferdaus’s license plate, and Ferdaus was later questioned by the FBI.

During the interview, Ferdaus, a Muslim, described America as “a racist nation against Muslims’’ and questioned the FBI’s authority to interview him, Davis said.

“He was very defensive and fairly uncooperative,’’ Davis said.

Ferdaus was also questioned by Ashland police after he was seen in the woods near the town’s train station.

“He said, ‘I know this looks very suspicious, but I was just trying to get a good look at the train station,’ ’’ Davis said.

Siegmann, the prosecutor, said Ferdaus provided the men posing as Al Qaeda with two detailed plans, one with a 14-page narrative, describing attacks on the Pentagon and Capitol building.

She said the men posing as Al Qaeda told him more than 30 times that he did not have to go through with the plan, but he repeatedly said he wanted to do it.

Siegmann said Ferdaus told the undercover agents: “I just can’t stop. There is no other choice for me.’’

But Ferdaus’s lawyers challenged the credibility of an FBI informant who was the first to make contact with Ferdaus at his mosque in Worcester in December 2010.

Under questioning from attorney Miriam Conrad, FBI Special Agent John Woudenberg acknowledged that the informant, known as Khalil, had been a gang member, had a drug problem, and had multiple criminal convictions.

Woudenberg said the FBI decided to use him with Ferdaus because he was knowledgeable about Islam.

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