|Authorities allege that Ferdaus carried out 'surveillance' in Washington, including this photograph [Reuters]
A man has been arrested and charged by authorities with plotting to damage or destroy the Pentagon and US Capitol building by using remote-controlled aircraft filled with plastic explosives.
Rezwan Ferdaus, a 26-year-old US citizen, was also charged with attempting to provide support and resources to al-Qaeda in order to carry out attacks on US soldiers stationed abroad, the US attorney's office in Boston said on Wednesday.
"The conduct alleged today shows that Mr Ferdaus had long planned to commit violent acts against our country," Carmen Ortiz, a US attorney, said in a statement.
Authorities launched an undercover operation to capture Ferdaus, involving FBI employees posing as members of al-Qaeda.
Authorities allege that Ferdaus, a physics graduate from Boston's Northeastern University, began planning to commit a violent "jihad" against the US in early 2010.
He allegedly modified mobile phones to act as remote electrical switches for improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
The public was never in any danger from the explosive devices, Attorney Ortiz said, as they were always in the control of the undercover FBI employees.
Ferdause, of Ashland, Massachusetts, about 40km west of Boston, supplied the phones to undercover FBI agents, who he believed were either members of or recruiters for al-Qaeda.
"During a June 2011 meeting, he appeared gratified when told his first phone detonation device had killed three US soldiers and injured four or five others in Iraq," the federal affidavit said.
"That was exactly what I wanted," the affidavit quotes Ferdaus as having said.
Ferdaus also told agents that he planned to attack the Pentagon in Washington using "small drone airplanes" filled with explosives and guided by GPS equipment.
He later added the US Capitol as target for that planned attack.
"In May and June 2011, Ferdaus delivered two thumb drives to the UCs [undercover agents], which contained detailed attack plans with step-by-step instructions as to how he planned to attack the Pentagon and Capitol," authorities said.
Ferdaus had travelled to Washington to conduct surveillance ahead of the planned attack, and had identified sites at East Potomac Park, near the Capitol, from which he planned to launch his explosive-filled remote-controlled aircraft.
Ferdaus was arrested immediately after he took possession of various weaponry from the FBI's undercover agents, including explosives, grenades and AK-47 assault rifles.