A Pakistani-born US citizen was arrested Wednesday on charges of plotting to carry out a coordinated bombing attack on Metrorail stations in suburban Virginia near Washington, D.C.
Farooque Ahmed of Ashburn, Va., was charged in a three-count indictment with attempting to provide material support to individuals he believed to be members of Al Qaeda.
From April 18 to Oct. 21, Mr. Ahmed is alleged to have participated in what he thought was an effort to plan massive, multiple bombings of crowded Metrorail trains. In fact, he was under close government surveillance the whole time.
A Justice Department statement said the Federal Bureau of Investigation was “aware of Ahmed’s activities from before the alleged attempt began.” The statement added: “At no time was the public in danger during this investigation.”
“Today’s case underscores the need for continued vigilance against terrorist threats and demonstrates how the government can neutralize such threats before they come to fruition,” David Kris, assistant attorney general for national security, said in the statement.
According to the indictment, Ahmed met in various hotels in northern Virginia with individuals he believed were Al Qaeda members to discuss the proposed operation. He was told the bombings would take place sometime in 2011.
Ahmed conducted surveillance, made sketches, and recorded video images of Metro stations at Arlington Cemetery, Court House, Pentagon City, and Crystal City, the indictment says. And he suggested optimal bomb placement in each station to maximize casualties.
Also according to the indictment, Ahmed conducted surveillance at an unnamed hotel in Washington.
Ahmed suggested that the individuals rely on rolling suitcases rather than backpacks to hold the bombs, the indictment says. And he said he wanted to kill as many military personnel as possible.
“It is 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 US Attorney Neil MacBride. “Today’s arrest highlights the terrorism threat that exists in northern Virginia and our ability to find those seeking to harm US citizens and neutralize them before they can act.”
The nine-page indictment charges Ahmed with two counts of attempting to provide material support to terrorists and one count of collecting information to assist in planning a terrorist attack on a transit facility.
If convicted, he faces up to 50 years in prison. The government will also seek forfeiture of Ahmed’s green 2005 Honda Accord and any money in his bank account.