By Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 29, 2010; 1:04 PM
The man charged in an alleged plot to blow up Metrorail stations in Northern Virginia suggested ways to kill as many people as possible on the subway, wanted to battle U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and trained himself to fight, authorities alleged Thursday.
But Farooque Ahmed, 34, of Loudoun County never suggested any attacks inside the United States, and the plot to attack Metro was hatched by government operatives posing as terrorists, according to court records unsealed Thursday.
Ahmed told undercover FBI operatives who he thought were al-Qaeda terrorists that he was ready to martyr himself in battle, according to government documents. He had trained himself in martial arts, use of firearms, and knife and gun tactics, according to the documents, and he offered to teach those skills.
Ahmed, who also suggested that he purchase firearms for jihad, is charged with conspiring to support al-Qaeda in a plot to bomb Metro stations in Arlington County.
Ahmed faces a maximum prison term of 50 years if convicted. He has not entered a plea, and his attorneys from the federal public defender's service declined to comment.
The 12-page sworn affidavit in support of a warrant to search Ahmed's Ashburn home and bank accounts suggests that Ahmed became an active and willing participant in the plot, providing surveillance and reconnaissance and offering his opinion on how to generate the most casualties.
It paints a picture of a man preparing himself step by step for violence in the name of religion, buying rifles and a shotgun and practicing with them, and telling the FBI he would be ready to go "operational" after completing the hajj pilgrimage next month.
The affidavit, signed by FBI Special Agent Charles A. Dayoub, details a grim 10-month courtship that began in January, just two months after a shooting rampage in which Army Maj. Nidal Hasan is accused of killing 13 soldiers and contractors at the Army post at Fort Hood, Tex., and weeks after Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab allegedly sought to blow up an airliner over Detroit.
"AHMED stated that he wanted to kill as many military personnel as possible," Dayoub wrote. He "stated that between 4:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. would be the best time to stage an attack to cause the highest number of casualties."
Ahmed proposed an additional Metro station as a target, suggested locations to place bombs and even recommended that putting explosives in rolling suitcases instead of backpacks would be more effective, Dayoub wrote.
The papers detail clandestine meetings in hotels near Dulles International Airport at which Ahmed handed over thumb drives with surveillance video.
Dayoub wrote that Ahmed said he planned to complete the hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia and then "conduct jihad" overseas. Dayoub said the FBI thinks that Ahmed had sought to buy guns for that purpose.A grim courtship unfolds
Ahmed, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Pakistan, immigrated with his family to the United States about 1993, according to court records. The family eventually settled in Staten Island, N.Y. In 2003, he graduated from the College of Staten Island - part of the vast City University of New York system - with a degree in computer science, officials said.
By 2005, Ahmed was living in Virginia and working in telecommunications, according to his profile on the business networking site LinkedIn. At the time of his arrest, he was working for a Reston-based contractor for the telecommunications company Ericsson, officials there confirmed.
His large extended family still lives in an apartment in the Graniteville neighborhood of Staten Island, and relatives did not return messages left on their answering machine Thursday.
Ahmed worshiped at Virginia mosques operated by the All Dulles Area Muslim Society, according to Robert Marro, government relations chairman for the group. "People here recall who he was," said Marro, who added that Ahmed visited mosques in Sterling and Ashburn. "He came in several times."
But Marro said Ahmed was not well known by many in the community. "He was just one of those people who just didn't make that strong an impression on anyone," Marro said. "He pretty much stuck to himself."
The mosque is the largest in the country, with 5,000 members worshiping in several locations.
The FBI first learned in January that Ahmed and an associate, whose name was withheld from the filings, were asking about contacting a terrorist organization to wage "jihad" overseas, Dayoub wrote.
A series of meetings was arranged at area hotels, including one April 18 at which Ahmed thought he would be meeting with a terrorist. The presumed al-Qaeda operative was an FBI operative.
Ahmed was given a Koran with code words for locations of future meetings. Those meetings were videotaped by the FBI. At one, Ahmed said he wanted to fight and kill Americans in Afghanistan and "of course" was willing to die as a martyr, the FBI affidavit said.
Over the next six months, Ahmed agreed to tasks assigned by two undercover FBI operatives. One of those tasks was casing the Arlington Cemetery Metro station, which he did July 7 and 13, the papers say. He turned over video he took from his cellphone while pretending to talk on it.
At a July 19 meeting in Northern Virginia, Ahmed was told his work was being used to prepare bomb attacks at the Arlington Cemetery, Court House and Pentagon City Metro stops in Arlington - stations used heavily by military personnel, civilian Pentagon employees and contractors - as well as at a hotel in the District.
"AHMED replied that those were good targets that contained many people," Dayoub wrote.
Ahmed also agreed to conduct surveillance at the Rosslyn and Pentagon City Metro stations and the Pentagon City mall. Eventually, Ahmed recommended another target, the Crystal City Metro station, and offered to provide Metro cards and other assistance in the plot, the FBI wrote.
At a Sept. 28 meeting, Ahmed told the agents - who he thought were preparing for a 2011 attack - that the afternoon rush hour would be the deadliest time to strike.
He sketched diagrams for "where to place explosives to kill the most people," Dayoub wrote, then tried on three backpacks provided by the undercover agents before suggesting the use of wheeled suitcases.Religious obligations
But Ahmed also expressed concerns that he complete religious obligations before going overseas to fight, a key step that counterterrorism analysts say is observed by violent Islamic extremists. He also told the undercover operatives that he was interested in contributing money to the cause, offering $10,000 in donations, Dayoub wrote.
According to federal authorities, Ahmed told agents that he would be ready to fight after completing a pilgrimage to Mecca next month.
"On September 28, 2010, AHMED told both [operatives] that he was attending the Hajj this year and that they should all go in order to complete the five pillars of Islam before making the 'top mark' - by which I believe AHMED meant 'becoming a martyr,' " Dayoub said.
Spokesmen for the Justice Department and Neil H. MacBride, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, declined to identify Ahmed's associate. While federal authorities often identify confidential witnesses or informants as such in court papers, the Ahmed affidavit provides no such description of his associate.
A federal law enforcement official said the associate's name is being withheld "to assist with the investigation" but would not elaborate.
Staff writers Tara Bahrampour and Annie Gowen and staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.