A Virginia man was arrested and indicted on charges he tried to help people he believed were al-Qaida operatives in planning to bomb Metro stations in and around the nation's capital in 2011. In fact, they were FBI, reported Pete Williams of NBC News.
Farooque Ahmed, 34, a naturalized citizen born in Pakistan, was arrested Wednesday morning. FBI agents are searching his Ashburn townhouse.
The FBI said the public was never in danger because its agents were aware of the man's activities before the alleged planning took place and monitored him throughout. Ahmed never bought any explosives and was never near carrying out a plot.
It's unknown how or why the FBI came to investigate him, exactly, or who first suggested an attack on Metro.
"At the time that the investigation centered around the Metro system, we became involved," said Metro Transit Police Chief Michael Taborn.
Metro police has had a member on the FBI's Washington Field Office Joint Terrorism Task Force for 10 years.
Ahmed was indicted on charges of attempting to provide material support to a designated terrorist organization, collecting information to assist in planning a terrorist attack on a transit facility and attempting to provide material support to carry out multiple bombings to cause mass causalities at Washington-area Metro stations.
“It’s chilling that a man from Ashburn is accused of casing rail stations with the goal of killing as many Metro riders as possible through simultaneous bomb attacks,” said U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride.
Federal investigators said starting in April Ahmed met several times with people he believed were al-Qaida operatives. At a Dulles hotel on April 18, a courier Ahmed believed to be affiliated with terrorists gave him a document of potential locations for future meetings, according to the indictment. On May 15, Ahmed agreed to monitor and photograph a D.C. hotel and an Arlington Metro station to gather security information and determine their busiest periods. Ahmed allegedly performed surveillance and recorded video of Metro stations in Arlington four times.
In July, Ahmed handed over video images of Arlington Cemetery station to someone he believed was affiliated with al-Qaida, the indictment said. He also allegedly agreed to study the security at the Courthouse and Pentagon City stations. He handed over images of those stations in late September. He also provided diagrams he drew of all three stations he had cased and suggested locations where explosives could be placed on trains to maximize casualties, according to the indictment. He allegedly suggested attacking between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. to maximize casualties. And he recommended putting the explosives in rolling suitcases instead of backpacks, according to the indictment.
Ahmed allegedly suggested the Crystal City station also be included and said he wanted to kill as many military personnel as possible. Last week he arranged via e-mail for Crystal City surveillance to be handed over this week and performed that surveillance.
The indictment also says Ahmed wanted to donate $10,000 to support members of the organization overseas and was willing to collect donations from others under the guise of collecting donations for another cause.
If convicted, Ahmed could be sentenced to a maximum of 50 years in prison.
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