U.S. News

Man arrested in DC plot trained for Afghanistan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Pakistani-born man, who believed he was part of an al Qaeda plot to bomb the Washington subway system, was also training to fight U.S. forces in Afghanistan, according to an FBI affidavit released on Thursday.

Farooque Ahmed, a 34-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen who was arrested in a sting operation on Wednesday, told undercover agents that he had trained himself in firearms and hand-to-hand combat while preparing to travel to the Pakistan-Afghanistan region as early as January, the document said.

“Ahmed is using his firearms to train for his ultimate goal of traveling to Afghanistan to fight and kill Americans,” FBI agent Charles Dayoub said in the affidavit filed in federal court as part of a search warrant application.

The FBI believes Ahmed intended to become a martyr in Afghanistan after joining the Haj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, a once-in-a-lifetime requirement for able-bodied Muslims that Ahmed expected to undertake next month.

FBI officials declined to comment on the contents of the affidavit. Authorities have emphasized the public was never in danger because the suspect was being closely monitored.

Ahmed’s arrest came amid heightened concern about attacks in Europe and the United States. U.S. authorities have warned that al Qaeda is seeking to recruit U.S. citizens for attacks that are smaller in scale and more difficult to detect than the September 11 attacks, which killed about 3,000 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

Ahmed, who moved to the United States in 1993 and lived in Ashburn, Virginia, was charged this week with trying to provide material support to a designated terrorist organization, collecting information to assist in planning an attack and attempting to provide material support to help carry out multiple bombings to cause mass casualties.

But the al Qaeda operatives he believed he was working with were federal agents.

From April to October 25, Ahmed allegedly conducted surveillance, videotaped, photographed, and drew diagrams of the Arlington Cemetery, Courthouse, Crystal City and Pentagon City Metrorail stations and offered suggestions about where to place explosives to kill people in simultaneous attacks planned for 2011, the indictment said.

He allegedly told an agent posing as an al Qaeda operative that an attack executed between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. on the Washington Metro would cause the most casualties.

The FBI affidavit describes Ahmed as being accompanied at the rail stations by an “associate” who was also with him when he tried to contact al Qaeda. FBI officials had no comment and there was no indication authorities were seeking a second suspect.

The FBI affidavit said Ahmed told undercover agents that he had practiced firing rifles and a shotgun on a shooting range, had studied martial arts for four years and had learned how to use a knife and to disarm an opponent.

He also tried to purchase firearms in May 2008 and February 2009. The affidavit did not mention whether the attempted purchases succeeded. But it said Ahmed later offered to buy guns for al Qaeda, help train its members and provide $10,000 in donations for the Islamist militant network.

“Ahmed stated that he wanted to kill as many military personnel as possible,” the affidavit said.

FBI officials sought the search warrant to seize Ahmed’s bank records and 2005 Honda Accord sedan.

Editing by Eric Walsh