WASHINGTON — The tip that led to the FBI's subway bombing sting came from a source in the Muslim community: A Pakistani-born man from a middle-class suburb was trying to join a terrorist group, law enforcement officials said Thursday.
Farooque Ahmed, a naturalized citizen arrested Wednesday, was a married father who had a good job with a telecommunications company. Authorities say he also was eager to kill Americans in Afghanistan and committed to becoming a martyr.
Ahmed thought he had found what he wanted, a pair of al-Qaida operatives who would help him carry out an attack on the nation's second-busiest subway, according to court documents unsealed Thursday. But the operatives were really undercover investigators.
What followed was an elaborate ruse in which Ahmed was given intelligence-gathering duties and coded information in a Koran by two individuals posing as al-Qaida operatives as part of the supposed plot to kill commuters.
Ahmed, 34, was taped discussing his firearm, martial arts and knife skills and offering to teach those deadly tactics to others, according to an FBI affidavit. Officials said they took guns and ammunition out of Ahmed's suburban Ashburn, Va., townhouse during a search Wednesday.
Like the suspect in the deadly Fort Hood, Texas, shooting and the convicted terrorist who tried to detonate a car bomb in New York City's Times Square, officials said they think Ahmed was radicalized inside the United States.
Ahmed's lawyer, federal public defender Kenneth Troccoli, declined to comment on the case Thursday.
Born in Lahore, Pakistan, Ahmed arrived in the United States in 1993 and became a citizen in 2005, officials said.
Ahmed was a contractor with the telecommunications company Ericsson Services Inc. Company spokeswoman Kathy Egan said he never worked on the company's government contracts, including ones with the Pentagon.
In court documents, FBI Agent Charles A. Dayoub said Ahmed was lured by an e-mail to his first meeting with a supposed al-Qaida liaison. At the April 18 meeting, in the lobby of a hotel near Washington Dulles International Airport, Ahmed accepted the Koran containing coded documents for the locations of future meetings, Dayoub wrote.
Ahmed took eagerly to his assignments, court documents said. He videotaped four northern Virginia subway stations, suggested using rolling suitcases instead of backpacks to pack the explosives and said he wanted to donate $10,000 to help the overseas fight.
The FBI and White House have said the public was never in danger because FBI agents had Ahmed under surveillance before the sting was begun and until his arrest.
Ahmed faces charges of attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, collecting information to assist in planning a terrorist attack on a transit facility and attempting to provide material support to terrorists. He is due in court today, and prosecutors will argue he is too dangerous to be released while awaiting trial.