Feds Charge Suspect With Intent to Help Stage Attack on DC Metro System

ALEXANDRIA, VA. -- The federal government arrested and arraigned naturalized-U.S. citizen Farooque Ahmed (fuh-ROOK uh-MEDD) Wednesday on three counts of trying to help stage an attack on the Washington, DC Metro system.

Ahmed is 34 and lived in the Washington, DC suburb of Ashburn, VA. He's a native of Pakistan.

Authorities accuse Ahmed of trying to help al-Qaida and others plan bombings at Metro stations in metropolitan Washington.

The first count alleged Ahmed conducted surveillance to help terrorists plan an attack by drawing diagrams, taking pictures and videotaping the Metro stop at Arlington National Cemetery, just across the river from the nation's capital.

The second count charges Amhed with trying to assist a "designated foreign terrorist organization (in this case, according to prosecutors, al-Qaida)."

The third count focuses on trying to help terrorists generally.

The first and third counts hold penalties of 15 years behind bars. The second count would involve 20 years in jail if convicted."As you can hear, these are serious charges," said U.S. Magistrate John Anderson to Ahmed when he entered the courtroom.

The government alleges that Ahmed met on multiple occasions with alleged terrorists in Dulles, Sterling and Arlington, VA.

Two U.S. marshals accompanied Ahmed to the hearing. Ahmed sported a full beard and mustache and glasses. He spoke only once when telling Anderson he could not afford counsel.

The government will appoint Ahmed an attorney. In fact, prosecutor Gordon Kromberg reminded Anderson that Ahmed's counsel would have to be "cleared" for national security purposes because there was "likely to be classified material in this case."

The government has a pool of court-appointed lawyers who are certified to handle certain cases involving alleged terrorism and national security breaches.

Anderson scheduled another hearing for 2 p.m. Friday to determine if Ahmed should be held while awaiting trial. A spokesman for the prosecutors indicated a trial date could be set Friday.

The case has been assigned to Judge Gerald Lee in the Eastern District of Virginia.

A number of high-profile terrorism cases are heard in the Eastern District of Virginia. The most visible was the so-called "20th highjacker" case, involving Zacarias Moussaoui.