Washington, Feb 18: A Moroccan man has been arrested here for planning to “blow himself up” in the US Capitol building as part of a suicide attack, the Department of Justice said.
The man, identified as Amine El Khalifi, 29, was produced before a federal court yesterday afternoon hours after his arrest.
Federal authorities, however, said the Congress was never in danger as Khalifi was working for an “undercover FBI agent”.
The Department of Justice said the arrest of Khalifi was the culmination of an “undercover operation during which he was closely monitored by the FBI Washington Field Office’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF)”.
The explosives and firearm that he allegedly sought and attempted to use had been rendered “inoperable by law enforcement and posed no threat to the public”.
“The complaint filed today alleges that Amine El Khalifi sought to blow himself up in the US Capitol Building. El Khalifi allegedly believed he was working with al-Qaeda and devised the plot, the targets and the methods on his own,” said US Attorney Neil MacBride.
“Today’s case underscores the continuing threat we face from homegrown violent extremists,” Assistant Attorney General Lisa Monaco said, adding “thanks to a coordinated law enforcement effort, El Khalifi’s alleged plot was thwarted before anyone was harmed”.
FBI Assistant Director in Charge, McJunkin said this individual allegedly followed a “twisted, radical ideology that is not representative of the Muslim community in the United States”.
According to the criminal complaint affidavit, in January 2011, a confidential human source reported to the FBI that Khalifi met with other individuals at a residence in Arlington, Virginia.
During this meeting, one individual produced what appeared to be an AK-47, two revolvers and ammunition.
The affidavit alleged that Khalifi sought to be associated with an armed extremist group, and on December 1, 2011, he was introduced by a man he knew as “Hussien” to an individual named “Yusuf”, who was, in reality, an undercover law enforcement officer.
Throughout December 2011 and January 2012, “Khalifi allegedly proposed to carry out a bombing attack. His proposed targets included a building that contained US military offices, as well as a synagogue, US Army generals and a restaurant frequented by military officials”.
During meetings with the undercover officer, Khalifi handled an AK-47 and indicated his desire to conduct an operation in which he would use a gun and kill people face-to-face, it said.
He also allegedly selected a restaurant in Washington, for a bombing attack; handled an explosive as an example of what could be used in the attack; conducted surveillance to determine the best place and time for the bombing and purchased materials as part of the planned operation, said the affidavit.
On January 7, 2012, “Hussien” informed Khalifi that he was an al-Qaeda operative. Khalifi allegedly discussed the possibility that his planned bombing of the restaurant would be followed by a second attack against a military installation.
The affidavit further alleged that on January 15, 2012, Khalifi stated that he had modified his plans for his attack.
Rather than conduct an attack on a restaurant, he “wanted to conduct a suicide attack at the US Capitol Building”.
He also selected February 17, 2012, as the day of the operation.
Over the next month, Khalifi travelled to the US Capitol Building on multiple occasions to conduct surveillance, choosing the spot where he would be dropped off to enter the building for the “martyrdom operation”, the specific time for the attack and the method he would use to avoid attracting the attention of law enforcement, it said.
Yesterday, Khalifi allegedly travelled to a parking garage near the US Capitol Building and took possession of a MAC-10 automatic weapon and put on a vest containing what he believed to be a functioning bomb.
Unbeknownst to Khalifi, both the weapon and the bomb had been rendered inoperable by law enforcement, according to the affidavit.
He walked alone from the vehicle toward the US Capitol, where he intended to shoot people and detonate the bomb. Khalifi was arrested and taken into custody before exiting the parking garage, it added.