WASHINGTON — A Pakistani-born Virginia man was arrested Wednesday and accused of casing Washington area subway stations in what he thought was an al-Qaida plot to bomb and kill D.C. area commuters.
The bombing plot was a ruse conducted over the past six months, the FBI said, but 34-year-old Farooque Ahmed readily handed over video of northern Virginia subway stations, suggested using rolling suitcases rather than backpacks to kill as many people as possible and offered to donate money to al-Qaida's cause overseas.
The public never was in danger because FBI agents were aware of Ahmed's activities and monitored him throughout, the agency said. And the people that Ahmed thought were al-Qaida operatives were actually individuals who worked on behalf of the government, the Associated Press said it was told by a federal law enforcement official.
Ahmed was indicted under seal by a federal grand jury in Alexandria, Va., on Tuesday, and the charges were made public Wednesday. He is accused 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 casualties. Ahmed, a naturalized citizen, lives in Ashburn, Va., outside Washington.
During a brief court appearance in federal court in Alexandria, Ahmed did not enter a plea and was ordered held without bail. He told U.S. Magistrate Judge John Anderson he couldn't afford to hire a lawyer. Prosecutors said they planned to use some classified information as evidence in the case.
Ahmed's arrest comes as the United States has been struggling with an uptick in Americans plotting terrorist attacks.
Last week, a Hawaii man was arrested for making false statements to the FBI about his plans to attend terrorist training in Pakistan. In August, a Virginia man was caught trying to leave the country to fight with an al-Qaida-affiliated group in Somalia. And in May, Faisal Shazhad, a naturalized citizen also from Pakistan, tried to set off a car bomb at a bustling street corner in New York City. U.S. authorities had no intelligence about Shahzad's plot until the smoking car turned up in Manhattan.