A federal indictment was unsealed charging naturalized American citizen Farooque Ahmed with a bomb plot to attack Washington D.C.'s metro system. Ahmed, 34 and a native of Pakistan, was caught by an FBI sting operation underway since April.
National Public Radio reports that a grand jury has indicted Ahmed on the following charges: attempting to provide material support to a designated terrorist organization; collecting information to assist in planning a terrorist attack on a transit facility; attempting to provide material support to help carry out multiple bombings. Farooque Ahmed did not enter a plea in court on Wednesday, October 27. He has asked to be provided with an attorney.
FBI agents, posing as al-Qaeda operatives, had been in contact with Ahmed regarding the alleged bomb plot for months. NPR reports that Ahmed began bringing materials such as videos, diagrams and pictures of potential targets to his meetings with the agents. The indictment alleges Ahmed suggested using rolling suitcases to transport bombs onto the Washington Metro system during rush hour, in hopes of causing the maximum possible casualties.
In cases like this one, where a sting operation is in place and the alleged plan has yet to be carried out, questions of intent and entrapment are often raised as defenses to the criminal charges. Ahmed's defense attorney can question the proof the government will put forth of Ahmed's intent to actually commit the crimes he is charged with. Did Ahmed actually purchase or make explosives? Was he merely full of talk and plans to impress the agents he believed to be al-Qaeda, or did he actually intend to carry out the bomb plot and kill his victims?
Another popular defense in sting cases like these one of entrapment. This defense was recently raised in the case of the four men convicted of plotting to bomb New York synagogues. In those cases, the government must walk a fine line between allowing a criminal suspect to proceed with his plans and actually persuading or inducing him to commit acts he would not have otherwise attempted.
The judge hearing the case in court this morning reminded Farooque Ahmed the charges against him are very serious. According to the Associated Press, if convicted, Ahmed faces up to 50 years in prison.