WASHINGTON – A 29-year-old illegal immigrant from Morocco was arrested and charged Friday with an alleged plot to carry out a suicide bombing at the U.S. Capitol Building.
Amine El Khalifi, who had been living in Alexandria, Va., was apprehended while on his way to carry out the alleged attack armed with an automatic weapon and an explosive vest device, according to federal court documents. Neither of the devices was working, however — El Khalifi had obtained them from undercover federal agents, who had rendered them useless.
“Amine El Khalifi sought to blow himself up in the U.S. Capitol Building,” said Neil MacBride, the chief federal prosecutor in Northern Virginia. “El Khalifi believed he was working with al-Qaeda and devised the plot, the targets and methods on his own.”Following his arrest, El Khalifi made his initial court appearance before U.S. District Judge T. Rawles Jones Jr. If convicted, the suspect faces a maximum penalty of life in prison.
Prior to his arrest Friday, El Khalifi had been the subject of a two-month undercover FBI investigation after agents were alerted to the suspect by an unidentified informant.
The informant told the FBI, according to court documents, that the suspect “sought to be associated with an armed extremist groupIn December, El Khalifi was allegedly introduced to an undercover agent, posing as an al-Qaeda associate. The meeting led to discussions about plans to attack a D.C.-area restaurant, followed by an assault on a military installation.
Last month, according to court documents, El Khalifi allegedly modified his plans, choosing the U.S. Capitol Building instead of the restaurant as a target of a suicide bombing.
Posing as terror associates, undercover agents staged a test bombing at a West Virginia quarry on Jan. 15, when El Khalifi allegedly “expressed a desire for a larger explosion in his attack.”
At that time, El Khalifi is alleged to have personally selected Feb. 17 as the date of the operation and in the month before conducted surveillance at the Capitol and chose the location where he planned to launch the attack.
“El Khalifi also asked (the informant) to remotely detonate the bomb he would be wearing on the day of the attack if El Khalifi encountered problems with security officers, and to provide El Khalifi with a gun that he could use during the attack to shoot any officers who might stop him,” the documents stated.