Indian Express, April 12, 2011
A Pakistan-born computer engineer has been sentenced to 23 years in prison by a US court after he pleaded guilty to charges that he tried to assist suspected members of al-Qaeda in planning bombings at Metrorail stations in the Washington area.
A resident of Virginia, Farooque Ahmed (35) pleaded guilty to the charges of attempting to provide material support to a designated terrorist organisation and collecting information to assist in planning an attack on a transit facility.
He was arrested by the FBI on October 27, 2010.
In a plea agreement, the defence and government jointly recommended a sentence of 23 years in prison. Following the acceptance of the guilty plea, Judge Lee immediately sentenced Ahmed to the agreed-upon jail term and imposed a 50-year term of supervised release.
Announcing the plea, officials emphasised that at no time was the public in danger during this investigation and that the FBI was aware of Ahmed’s activities from before the alleged attempt began and closely monitored his activities until his arrest.
“Mr Ahmed today admitted he was determined to kill as many people as possible through multiple bombings at the heart of our nation’s capital,” said US Attorney Neil H MacBride.
“It’s chilling that a man from Ashburn could admit to planning these acts of terrorism, and a 23-year sentence is a just punishment.”
Todd Hinnen, Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security, said: “From his home in Ashburn, Virginia, believing that he was working for al-Qaeda, Farooque Ahmed plotted to carry out the simultaneous bombing of multiple Metro trains in the Washington DC area.”
While, James McJunkin, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, said: “This individual followed a twisted, radical ideology outside that of the mainstream Muslim community which led him to break the law. He now faces the consequences of his actions.”
According to court records, from April 2010 through October 25, Ahmed attempted to assist others whom he believed to be members of al-Qaeda in planning multiple bombings to cause mass casualties at Metrorail stations.
On April 18, 2010, he drove to a hotel in Dulles, Virginia, and met with a courier he believed to be affiliated with a terrorist organisation who provided Ahmed with a document that provided potential locations at which future meetings could be arranged.
On May 15, 2010, at a hotel in Herndon, Virginia, Ahmed agreed to watch and photograph another hotel in Washington DC and a Metrorail station in Arlington, Virginia, to obtain information about their security and busiest periods.
He participated in surveillance and recorded video images of Metrorail stations in Arlington, Virginia, on four occasions. On July 19, 2010, in a hotel room in Sterling he handed a memory stick containing video images of a Metrorail station in Arlington to an individual whom Ahmed believed to be affiliated with al-Qaeda.
On the same day, he allegedly agreed to assess the security of two other Metrorail stations in Arlington as locations of terrorist attacks.
On September 28, in a hotel room in Herndon, he handed a USB drive containing images of two Metrorail stations in Arlington to an individual whom Ahmed believed to be affiliated with al-Qaeda.
The same day, he also provided to an individual whom he believed to be affiliated with al-Qaeda diagrams that Ahmed drew of three Metrorail stations in Arlington and provided suggestions as to where explosives should be placed on trains in Metrorail stations in Arlington to kill the most people in simultaneous attacks planned for 2011, the Justice Department said.