Feds say Farooque Ahmed thought he was assisting members of al-Qaeda by providing sketches, photos and videos of the Pentagon City, Courthouse, Arlington Cemetery and Crystal City stations. According to prosecutors, he also observed and detailed security procedures in the stations for his handlers, who he believed to be affiliated with the terror organization.
Ahmed collected the information “with the intent to plan and assist in planning multiple bombings to cause mass casualties at Metrorail stations,” the indictment reads.
His goal, according to the indictment, was “to kill as many military personnel as possible.”
Flickr pool photo by Mattron.
(Updated at 3:00 p.m.) Driving rain and high winds knocked out power, flooded roads and led to numerous accidents in Arlington this morning.
Parts of Ballston and the area around Lee Highway and North Glebe Road lost power during the storm. A storm-related electrical fire in the parking garage of the National Science Foundation building caused dozens of workers to be evacuated. As of 2:50 p.m., the Arlington Central Library was still without power.
During the storm, several accidents were reported on I-66 and elsewhere.
On Washington Boulevard near Utah Street, north of Ballston, standing water in one of the far lanes caused a big splash as cars drove through it. Further up the street, at the intersection with Glebe Road, a backup formed as traffic lights flashed yellow.
The National Weather Service has issued a flash flood warning until 4:15 this afternoon, and a tornado watch until 9:00 tonight.
Update at 3:05 p.m. — Central Library has closed until further notice due to the lack of power and phone service.
Update at 3:55 p.m. — The tornado watch has been canceled.
Update on 10/28 — More about the Ballston power outages here.
The National Science Foundation building at 4201 Wilson Boulevard in Ballston was evacuated after an apparent lightning strike caused an electrical fire.
At least one witness reported hearing a popping sound as power went out. Rancid-smelling smoke spilled out of the building’s parking garage as a large fire department response surrounded the building.
While firefighters investigated the smoke, dozens of office workers stood outside in the light rain, waiting for the building to be reopened. Fire equipment blocked the westbound lanes of Wilson Boulevard.
There are reports that another building across the street was evacuated due to the smell of smoke. Firefighters believe the smoke was coming through an underground tunnel from the NSF building.
Much of Ballston, including Arlington Central Library, is currently without power.
Update at 2:20 p.m. — Most of the fire crews at the NSF building are packing up their gear. The actual fire investigation seems to be on the P2 level of the NSF parking garage.
Update at 2:25 p.m. — Wilson Boulevard has now reopened.
Update at 9:10 p.m. — From NSF spokesperson Dana Topousis: “The National Science Foundation (NSF) will be closed on Thursday, October 28, due to a power outage. Employees are encouraged to check NSFAlert.com for updates.”
Update on 10/28 — Dominion’s Le-Ha Anderson sheds more light on why the NSF building is closed here.
(Updated at 1:20 p.m.) The back of Republican congressional candidate Patrick Murray’s campaign bus swiped a Jeep in Old Town Alexandria last night and drove off without leaving a note, a witness and the Jeep’s owner tell ARLnow.com.
The Murray campaign says the driver left a note. Alexandria Police say they’re investigating the accident as a hit and run, but also say that someone on the bus left a note.
The alleged incident happened while the bus was trying to turn from King Street onto Union Street around 7:00 last night, witness Jennifer Watkins said in a phone interview this morning. Watkins said the back of the bus loudly scraped against the side of the Jeep, briefly lifting it in the air.
Watkins estimated that about 30 people were within earshot of the accident. The bus was adorned with campaign signs, she said, and a Murray for Congress SUV preceded the bus down King Street with a megaphone blaring.
Watkins said the SUV later doubled back to inspect the damage, but left without anyone getting out of the vehicle. Afterward, Watkins and another witness left notes on the car to tell the owner what happened.
“To blatantly drive away with all these witnesses watching… we were in disbelief,” Watkins said. “We tried to give the benefit of the doubt that maybe they didn’t know that they did that, but when the guy came back around we were like… this is ridiculous.”
The Jeep’s owner, Barbara Reeder, says the campaign has not contacted her yet. She’s hoping to get the bus’s insurance information so she can get her car repaired.
“This is not a political issue,” Reeder said. “The only thing that concerns me is that it was a hit and run… I just want to make sure my car gets fixed.”
The incident is being investigated as a property damage hit and run, says Alexandria Police spokesperson Ashley Hildebrandt. She said that someone on the bus left a note. She was unable to say whether a traffic citation was or will be issued to the bus driver.
“We’ll handle it the same way” as any other accident involving a bus, Hildebrandt said.
In response to an ARLnow.com inquiry, a Murray campaign spokesperson disputes witness accounts that the bus driver did not leave a note on the Jeep. The campaign issued the following statement:
Tuesday night there may have been contact between the campaign bus we have contracted and a vehicle in Old Town Alexandria.
My preliminary information is the bus driver stopped, looked for damage and in the dark, apparently found none. Nonetheless, he left a message on the windshield of the impacted car.
Very late last night I was contacted by the Alexandria police investigating the incident. As the campaign was not the leasing agent, I had no information and informed the police we would inform the driver today that the police would like to talk to him today. We expect the situation will be fully resolved today.
There were no injuries and no hit and run. The bus is fully insured and any damages will be covered by the bus owner.
With just six days to go until the election, the accident is an unwelcome distraction for the Murray campaign. Murray was just beginning to enjoy some media traction thanks to controversial comments made by his Democratic opponent, Rep. Jim Moran.
(Updated at 4:20 p.m.) In August, the county zoning enforcement office told the owners of the Westover Market that concerts and crowds were not allowed at the store’s popular outdoor beer garden. Since then the store has hired a land use attorney, drummed up impressive public support and taken steps to meet the county’s requirements.
Soon, the store will submit plans to the county for building new handicap-accessible bathrooms. Completing code-compliant bathrooms would be the first step toward getting approval to operate the beer garden as an entertainment venue.
Hicks says that the store’s relationship with county regulators has changed significantly since collecting nearly 2,000 signatures from supportive residents and getting nominated for two ABBIE awards.
“The county is now working with us to jump all these hurdles,” Hicks said. “And it’s all because of the support.”
Once the bathroom plans are approved and the facilities are built — at the cost of $25,000 to $35,000 — the market should have all the elements in place to be recognized by the county as a restaurant, Hicks said. Once it receives the restaurant designation, it will be eligible to apply for a live entertainment permit.
In addition to allowing musicians to perform in the beer garden, regulatory approval could increase the allowed beer garden occupancy from the current 9 to nearly 100, Hicks said.
Hicks expects to have the bathrooms built by January, and hopes to get the live entertainment permit soon thereafter.
In an earlier version of this story, Hicks said that plans for the new restrooms had been submitted to the county. However, county official Hunter Moore later told us that the market’s plan for new restrooms have, in fact, not been submitted yet.
Moore also says that more steps may be necessary in order for the market to be considered a restaurant, and thus eligible to apply for a live entertainment permit.
“The County staff remain committed to working with the Westover Market to achieve as much of the owner’s goals as possible,” Moore added. “We realize the community wants it and we want to be supportive of local business, but at the same time they have to play by the same set of rules that everybody else plays by.”
County board members are not big fans of Gov. Bob McDonnell’s plan to privatize state liquor stores. At yesterday’s board meeting, members took turns bashing various aspects of the plan.
“It does not come anywhere near funding the transportation needs of the state,” Barbara Favola said, of the plan’s stated goal of helping to fill the $20 billion worth of unfunded transportation needs in Virginia.
“Four-hundred-fifty million dollars is nothing,” said Chris Zimmerman, referring to the estimated one-time revenues that selling state-run ABC stores and auctioning off liquor licenses could provide. He said that one estimate puts the additional amount needed for transportation in Northern Virginia at $500 million per year.
Jay Fisette worried about the loss of the state’s lucrative ABC business, which provides millions each year to fund human services programs. That revenue, he said, would be lost under the plan, choking off the state’s already shrinking human services budget.
Also a concern was the number of new liquor stores and liquor-licensed grocery and convenience stores that could be approved under the plan. Zimmerman cited a report saying the number of stores selling liquor in Arlington would increase from 8 to 26.
“I think this has great potential to affect our community in a negative manner,” said Mary Hynes. She said it would be easier for teens to buy liquor from grocery stores than it currently is to buy liquor from the state-run ABC stores.
Sushi Rock Decision Deferred — The county board deferred its decision on whether to grant Sushi Rock (1900 Clarendon Blvd) a live entertainment permit until November, to allow more time for community input. At yesterday’s board meeting, neighbors complained that the restaurant is already so loud that it keeps them up at night. Sushi Rock management told the board that they’re losing money while waiting for the permit, which would help develop more late night bar business. More from TBD.
ACE Holds “Hallowgreen” Gala Tonight — Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment is holding its cleverly-named Halloween gala tonight on the Pike. There will be a costume contest, a silent auction and a concert by the band Trees on Fire. Tickets are $50. The event is being held from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. at The Salsa Room (2619 Columbia Pike).
Virginia GOP Hammers Moran on Comments — Rep. Jim Moran’s ill-advised critique of his GOP challenger, Patrick Murray, continues to haunt Moran and embolden Republicans. Now the state Republican party has released a web ad entitled “Just a Government Check?” which pairs Moran’s remark regarding Murray’s limited government stance and his military service to photos of Arlington National Cemetery.
New Mobile Visitors Center to Debut at Marathon — Arlington’s new electric-powered Mobile Visitor Center will be making its debut at the Marine Corps Marathon Health and Fitness Expo in the District on Friday. The county says the visitor center is “a fully customized ‘green’ vehicle that will serve visitors in the County’s urban villages and at major tourism events. ” More from Arlington County.