More homegrown terrorism as FBI makes arrest in D.C.-area plot
A naturalized citizen from Pakistan is charged with trying to help people he believed were al-Qaida operatives planning to bomb subway stations around the Pentagon.
Tribune Washington bureau
WASHINGTON — A naturalized U.S. citizen from Pakistan was arrested Wednesday after he allegedly spent six months casing crowded Metro subway stations around the Pentagon in what prosecutors said was a plan "to kill as many military personnel as possible" by placing bombs on the trains and detonating them during rush hour.
Farooque Ahmed, 34, of Ashburn, Va., in the Washington suburbs, allegedly wanted to stage a series of coordinated bombings on the trains on behalf of al-Qaida terrorists whom he did not realize were FBI undercover operatives.
According to a federal indictment, Ahmed repeatedly scouted commuter traffic at several subway stations leading in and out of the Pentagon in Virginia, and reported his findings to the undercover operatives.
So detailed was his surveillance, the indictment said, that Ahmed suggested bombings between 4 and 5 p.m. would "cause the most casualties" and explosives should be sneaked aboard the trains in "rolling suitcases."
Ahmed appeared in federal court on charges of attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization and collecting information to assist in planning a terrorist attack on a transit facility. The former network-planning engineer and computer scientist in New York did not enter a plea in the case. If convicted, he could receive up to 50 years in prison.
The Ahmed case, which President Obama was briefed on before the arrest, is the latest in a string of alleged bomb plots by so-called homegrown terrorists.
Unlike other U.S. citizens implicated in recent terrorism plots, Ahmed does not appear to have received overseas training from al-Qaida or any of its affiliates, the sources said.
Another Pakistani American, Faisal Shahzad, 30, a Connecticut resident, was sentenced to life in prison this month after the bomb he left in a car in Times Square in May failed to detonate. In other instances, suspects were caught in sting operations.
This month, a Jordanian was sentenced to 24 years in prison for attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction to blow up a Dallas skyscraper. Hosam Smadi, 20, was arrested in September 2009 after leaving what he thought was a truck bomb but was instead a decoy device provided by FBI agents posing as al-Qaida operatives.
Another man, Michael Finton, 29, awaits trial in March on similar charges, after driving an FBI-supplied van that he believed contained a ton of explosives to blow up the Paul Findley Federal Building and Courthouse in Springfield, Ill., also in September 2009.
At a recent Senate hearing, Michael Leiter, head of the National Counterterrorism Center, said the United States was experiencing a "spike in homegrown violent extremist activity," some of it involving individuals who were radicalized over the Internet.
Since 2009, more than 60 U.S. citizens have been charged or convicted in terrorism cases, according to federal officials.
Additional information from The Washington Post
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