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Bomb-plot suspect lived quiet suburban life

BALTIMORE - Farooque Ahmed, the Pakistani-born Virginia man accused of plotting to bomb Washington-area subway stations, lived in middle-class suburban comfort with his wife and their infant son. They held steady jobs in northern Virginia's technology industry and mostly kept to themselves.

They got along with neighbors, sometimes even cooking saffron rice and chicken for them. Ahmed enjoyed fishing, and his English-born wife, Sahar Mirza-Ahmed, was part of a group of "Hip Muslim Moms." Both were on social-networking sites.

Yet Ahmed had a burning desire to join the global jihad, according to federal authorities. Beyond his alleged terror plot, which involved scouting Metro stations he believed al-Qaida would bomb, authorities said he wanted to travel to Afghanistan to kill American soldiers.

Ahmed, 34, immigrated around 1993 to the United States and later became a citizen, according to an FBI affidavit. He lived in Staten Island and earned a bachelor's degree in computer science in 2003 from the College of Staten Island before he moved to Virginia.

Ahmed and his wife lived in a rented three-story brick townhouse in Ashburn, a bedroom community near Washington Dulles International Airport. Neighbors said they were polite, but reserved.

Marc Otterback, who lives next door, described the family as "pretty reclusive." He remembered commenting that a dinner they were cooking smelled good, and family members brought saffron rice and chicken to his home that evening.

Mirza-Ahmed had been listed as a co-organizer of Hip Muslim Moms, a social and support group for women with young children. Mirza-Ahmed wasn't the most outgoing, but she was well-liked, said group organizer Esraa Bani, who was "shocked and shaken" by the allegations.

"They're a regular, everyday family," Bani said. "That's why it's very shocking to hear this."

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