Facebook chats alert authorities to Va. man’s bomb threats

The Washington Examiner

By Emily Babay

An Arlington man is accused of threatening to set off bombs around D.C., including in the Metro system, but was caught through messages he sent on Facebook before a plot was developed.

Awais Younis, who also goes by Sundullah “Sunny” Ghilzai as well as Mohhanme Khan, was charged in federal court in Alexandria with making threatening communications.

Younis, who was born in Afghanistan, used Facebook to threaten to set off explosives, according to an affidavit for his arrest by Joseph Lesinski, a special agent with the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.

Authorities were tipped off to Younis by an unidentified person who corresponded with him on the social networking site, court documents say.

The documents say Younis described how to build a pipe bomb and advocated placing bombs on the third and fifth cars of Metro trains because they “had the highest number of commuters on them and he could place pipe bombs in these locations and would not be noticed.”

Younis also said he could put a bomb under a sewer head in Georgetown at rush hour “to produce the greatest number of casualties,” the affidavit says.

Using Facebook’s chat feature, Younis told the person who alerted authorities that “you should be nervous,” and “you want a reason to complain out me and my people. i will give you a reason.”

Younis’ arrest comes after area authorities say they have foiled several other terrorism-related bomb plots in recent months.

On Wednesday, Antonio Martinez of Baltimore was charged with trying to blow up an armed forces recruiting center in Catonsville. And in October, Farooque Ahmed, a 34-year-old from Ashburn, was indicted on charges of plotting to bomb Metro stations and is accused of conducting surveillance for government operatives he thought were al Qaeda.

In Martinez’s case, authorities were also alerted because of messages he posted on Facebook.

Social media is likely to be used to tip off investigators to more plots, said Gary LaFree, director of the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism at the University of Maryland. That’s because would-be terrorists are increasingly using Facebook and other sites to spread messages, he said.

Younis is in custody pending a detention hearing scheduled for Dec. 21. His public defender couldn’t be reached for comment.

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