Farooque Ahmed - the Loudoun County man accused of conspiring to blow up Metrorail stations - was a firebrand whose conservative views sometimes clashed with others at the Sterling mosque where ...">
By Annie Gowen and Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, October 29, 2010; 11:15 PM
Farooque Ahmed - the Loudoun County man accused of conspiring to blow up Metrorail stations - was a firebrand whose conservative views sometimes clashed with others at the Sterling mosque where he worshiped, leaders there said Friday.
Ahmed, 34, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Pakistan, went only occasionally to the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) center to pray, and he rarely lingered or socialized. But he was not shy about making his beliefs known, leaders said.
He objected to the fact that men and women prayed together and demanded, without success, that women be relegated to an upstairs room, mosque officials said. Many still remember a nasty shoving match with a boy who he felt was too noisy and was dressed inappropriately for prayer.
"He was very angry and tried really to fight with him," said the deputy Imam, Abdur Rafaa Ouertani. Ouertani pulled Ahmed off the boy, took him aside and admonished him. "I noticed a lot of anger," he said. " For most of the people at the center, this is what they remember about him. This 'show.' It was unfortunate."
Ahmed, who had immigrated to the United States about 1993, attended college in Staten Island and moved to Virginia about 2005 to work in the telecommunications field. He and his wife, Sahar Mirza-Ahmed, had a young son and lived in a modest brick home in Ashburn. Mirza-Ahmed occasionally gathered at the mosque with other young mothers in a group called Hip Muslim Moms, which has disbanded.
Also Friday, Ahmed's attorneys did not contest his continued detention during a hearing in U.S. District Court in Alexandria.
Ahmed, wearing eyeglasses and a green jail jumpsuit, did not speak at the brief afternoon appearance before Magistrate Judge John F. Anderson.
He quietly acknowledged four supporters in the courtroom. The group, three men in casual clothing and a woman wearing a white and black patterned head scarf, apparently in their late 20s to early 40s, declined to comment.
Ahmed's attorneys, Kenneth Troccoli and Todd Richman of the federal public defenders office, also declined to comment.
Although Ahmed was quick to anger, mosque leaders said, they didn't notice serious trouble. Earlier this year, however, authorities say, Ahmed sought help in planning to wage jihad overseas. Someone contacted authorities, and the FBI launched its undercover investigation.
"We strongly believe the [tipster] was a member of this community," said ADAMS board member Robert Marro. The mosque officials declined to name him.
In court papers, the government also does not name the person who told authorities about Ahmed's interest in jihad.
After receiving that tip, authorities set up a sting operation involving a plot to bomb Metro stations in Arlington County. In court papers, they say Ahmed became a willing participant in the bombing plot. He conducted surveillance and reconnaissance and suggested ways to generate the most casualties, the papers say.
ADAMS - which serves about 6,000 area families at its headquarters and eight satellite worship locations - was abuzz with activity for traditional Friday prayers. Cars jammed the parking lot and overflowed onto Sugarland Road.
In his remarks, Ouertani spoke of Dhul-Hijjah, the upcoming traditional month of Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, as a time of rebirth. He only obliquely referred to Ahmed's arrest and urged members of the mosque to teach others about Islam and to embrace peace.
At an earlier service, the mosque's imam, Mohamed Magid, urged all ADAMS community members to work with law enforcement to report any suspicious activity.
The Ahmeds were set to travel to Mecca next month for the hajj, which Mirza-Ahmed spoke of excitedly to friends.
Meanwhile, her husband, authorities allege, was prepared to wage violent jihad.
"It's sad. It bothers us a lot," said Maha Hasanain, 45, an Arabic teacher from Herndon. "You would like people to know about the real Islam."