Thursday, October 28, 2010

U.S. citizen from Pakistan charged in Metro bombing plot

A U.S. citizen from Pakistan arrested Wednesday for allegedly plotting to blow up train stations in the nation's capital was planning to soon leave the United States and possibly carry out terrorist attacks abroad in January, according to a federal grand jury indictment.

Farooque Ahmed, 34, was taken into custody after being under surveillance by the FBI since April for allegedly plotting to blow up Metro trains and cause mass causalities in the Washington Metrorail system, according to the Justice Department.

Law enforcement officials said there was no imminent threat to the Washington Metrorail system.

The officials would not comment on why Ahmed was arrested. But according to a three-count indictment by a federal grand jury on Monday, Ahmed told a person he believed to be affiliated with a terrorist group he might be willing to travel overseas to conduct jihad in January after he completed the Hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia in November.

"There were operational reasons for the arrest at this time that we are not at liberty to comment on," one official said.

Authorities said Ahmed repeatedly collected information, including video images, of train stations around Washington and provided it to individuals he believed were members of al-Qaida who were planning multiple bombings. His activities stretched from April to October 25, federal authorities said.

"It's chilling that a man from Ashburn (Va.) 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 MacBride. "Today's arrest highlights the terrorism threat that exists in Northern Virginia and our ability to find those seeking to harm U.S. citizens and neutralize them before they can act."

Ahmed allegedly suggested using rolling suitcases instead of backpacks to contain bombs. Ahmed also said he wanted to kill as many military personnel as possible, according to the indictment.

The indictment said he participated in surveillance and video recording of the Arlington Cemetery, Courthouse, Pentagon City, and Crystal City metro stations. He told a person he believed to be affiliated with a terrorist group where and when explosives should be placed at those stations "to kill the most people in simultaneous attacks planned for 2011." In July, he said he wanted to donate $10,000 "to support their brothers overseas" and that he would send it in increments of $1,000 "in order to not raise any red flags."

Ahmed made an initial court appearance Wednesday in Alexandria, Va., at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. He will have a hearing Friday to determine whether he is held in custody or released on bail or under other conditions.

"He remains in custody pending that hearing," a spokesman for the court said.

U.S. law enforcement and intelligence officials have become increasingly concerned about the possibility of small-scale terrorist attacks being carried out inside the United States by "homegrown terrorists," individuals acting on their own.

Last Saturday, a new video surfaced in which a U.S.-born spokesman for al-Qaida, Adam Gadahn, urged Muslims living in the United States and Europe to carry out attacks. "It is the duty of everyone who is sincere in his desire to defend Islam and Muslims today, to take the initiative to perform the individual obligation of jihad... by striking the Zio-Crusader interests," Gadahn said.

A September Congressional Research Service report found that, since May 2009, arrests were made in 19 plots by U.S. residents, compared to 21 plots from September 2001 to May 2009.

Gov. Ex

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