The Curious Identity of DC's Would-Be Metro Bomber

Mixed accounts from his neighbors and U.S. officials

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Farooque Ahmed, a 34-year-old Virgina resident, was arrested in connection with an alleged plot to bomb Washington, DC's metro system. Ahmed was caught in an FBI sting operation and, according to a U.S. attorney in Virginia, had "the goal of killing as many Metro riders as possible through simultaneous bomb attacks." Here's what we know about the would-be bomber thus far:

  • Here's How He Got Caught, writes Drew Costley at The Washington City Paper:

Ahmed was discovered by agents to be seeking to obtain unspecified materials (presumably bomb-related). As a part of a sting operation that lasted from April through early this week, federal authorities posing as al-Qaeda operatives asked Ahmed to collect video and photographic surveillance footage  and draw diagrams of Metrorail stations. According to the indictment, Ahmed carried out all of those tasks and handed over the information to people he thought were affiliated with al-Qaeda. They were, in fact, undercover agents.

Barbi Shires, whose home is next door to the brick rowhouse Ahmed and his wife rent in the Belmont Greene development, said she was stunned to learn that he was suspected by federal officials in the alleged plot.

"They were very nice. Every time we would see them, we speak," Shires said.

Their contact was mainly neighborly, she said -- they never got together socially, though she did say that Ahmed's wife brought over a traditional chicken dinner soon after they moved on...

But Jay Britton, who lives across the street from Ahmed, said that he was not particularly friendly. "Definitely not social," he said. Britton said he had run into Ahmed only a few times over the past year, and at most the two would exchange nods.
  • He Doesn't Fit the Mold, writes Sabrina Tavernise and Eric Schmitt at The New York Times:  "Mr. Ahmed did not appear to be part of a pattern of home-grown extremists, like Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistani-born American who went to Pakistan for training and was convicted in a failed Times Square bombing, and Najibullah Zazi, an Afghan man and legal resident whose plot to bomb the New York subway went undetected for months."
  • His Wife Doesn't Seem Like a Radical, notes John Cook at Gawker:
The wife of Farooque Ahmed... was involved in a decidedly non-jihadi-sounding social group called 'Hip Muslim Moms.'

Ahmed's wife Sahar Mirza-Ahmed is a "co-organizer" of a Northern Virginia group called "Hip Muslim Moms," a gathering of "today's mom's nurturing tomorrow's ummah," according to it's web site. (If jihad is hip now, Brooklyn is doomed.) Mirza-Ahmed is from Birmingham, England, according to her Meetup profile.
  • Ties to Radical Saudi Groups?  The Joshuapundit blog opines: "Unlike some of the others, Ahmed never went overseas for training, although it appears he had such a trip in the planning stages. I'm certain that when you look at what motivated Farooque Ahmed's decision to kill his fellow Americans, you will find a Saudi-funded wahabi mosque and a radical Muslim Brotherhood oriented imam... just like almost all the other cases of home grown jihad."
  • Was He Tricked?  The Washington Post reports on feelings within the Muslim community in Northern Virginia:

Muslim leaders in Northern Virginia said that, as of late Wednesday, no one had reported knowing or having interacted with Ahmed at local mosques. His arrest, however, touched off a conversation about whether Ahmed might have initiated a plot or whether law enforcement officials had floated the idea to him, as has been suggested in other FBI sting operations.

"It's a conversation that's definitely going on in the community," said Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, spokesman for Dar Al-Hijrah mosque in Falls Church. "At the same time, though, if you're dumb enough and sick enough to think you're working for al-Qaeda, then maybe your behind should be put in jail. If what the authorities accuse him of turns out to be true, I have very little sympathy for someone who plans something like that."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.