Federal law enforcement authorities arrested Farooque Ahmed, 34, of Ashburn, VA on Wednesday in connection with an alleged plot to carry out simultaneous bomb attacks at stations in the Washington Metro system. Ahmed, a Pakistani native and naturalized U.S. citizen for 17 years, conspired with people he thought were al-Qaeda operatives to bomb the Arlington Cemetery, Pentagon City, Crystal City and Court House stations – metro stops popular with Defense Department workers in the Washington, DC area.
In reality, however, Ahmed was in contact with federal agents posing as Islamic radicals operating in an undercover sting, and he reportedly never came in contact with real al-Qaeda militants. For his role in the plot, Ahmed is charged with attempting to provide material support to a designated terrorist organization, collecting information to assist in planning a terrorist attack on a transit facility, and attempting to provide material support to terrorists. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of 50 years in prison.
FBI investigators search the home of Farooque Ahmed in Ashburn, VA, on Wednesday.
His goal was “killing as many Metro riders as possible through simultaneous bomb attacks,” U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride said of Ahmed’s plan. “It’s chilling.”
Ahmed’s arrest underscores the growing trend in homegrown anti-American terrorism. The next terrorist attack against the U.S. will most likely come from an independent activist and American citizen – naturalized or not – seeking to plan an attack on their own but with the help of larger international terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda. Fully aware of this, al-Qaeda released a new publication earlier this month, Inspire Magazine, which offers terror tips for wannabe American jihadists.
Since 2009, more than 60 U.S. citizens have been charged or convicted in terrorism cases.