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Alexandria Man Arrested for Attempting to Detonate Bomb in Suicide Attack on Capitol

Suspect is an immigrant from Morocco who is illegally present in the United States.

Flikr photo of the Alexandria federal courthouse by Dan4th

Flikr photo of the Alexandria federal courthouse by Dan4th http://www.flickr.com/photos/dan4th/

Federal agents arrested a 29-year-old man residing in Alexandria for attempting to detonate a bomb in a suicide attack on the U.S. Capitol Building as part of what he intended to be a terrorist operation.

The Departmetn of Justice describes the suspect, Amine El Khalifi, as an immigrant from Morocco who is “illegally present in the United States.” The criminal complaint filed in the Eastern District of Virginia charges El Khalifi with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction against property that is owned and used by the United States. If convicted, El Khalifi faces a maximum penalty of life in prison.

“The complaint filed today alleges that Amine El Khalifi sought to blow himself up in the U.S. Capitol Building,” said U.S. Attorney MacBride in a written statement. “El Khalifi allegedly believed he was working with al-Qaeda and devised the plot, the targets and the methods on his own.”

El Khalifi had been monitored by the FBI Washington Field Office’s Joint Terrorism Task Force as part of an undercover operation. 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.

“Today’s case underscores the continuing threat we face from homegrown violent extremists,” said Assistant Attorney General Lisa Monaco in a written statement. “Thanks to a coordinated law enforcement effort, El Khalifi’s alleged plot was thwarted before anyone was harmed.”

COURT DOCUMENTS show that a confidential human source reported to the FBI in January 2011 that El Khalifi met with other individuals at a residence in Arlington. During this meeting, one individual produced what appeared to be an AK-47, two revolvers and ammunition. The documents say El Khalifi expressed agreement with a statement by this individual that the “war on terrorism” was a “war on Muslims” and said that the group needed to be ready for war.

“This individual allegedly followed a twisted, radical ideology that is not representative of the Muslim community in the United States,” said FBI Assistant Director in Charge McJunkin. “He became known to the JTTF because of his stated desire to carry out attacks in the U.S., specifically, the U.S. Capitol building.

When El Khalifi sought to be associated with an armed extremist group, the affidavit alleges, 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, federal prosecutors say, El Khalifi proposed to carry out a bombing attack. His proposed targets included a building that contained U.S. military offices, as well as a synagogue, U.S. Army generals and a restaurant frequented by military officials.

“This arrest is the result of dedicated special agents, task force officers and intelligence analysts from the FBI and our partner law enforcement agencies that make up the JTTF,” said McJunkin.

PROSECUTORS SAY El Khalifi handled an AK-47 during meetings with the undercover officer and indicated his desire to conduct an operation in which he would use a gun and kill people face-to-face. On Jan. 7, 2012, the agent know as “Hussien” informed El Khalifi that he was an al-Qaeda operative. El Khalifi allegedly discussed the possibility that his planned bombing of the restaurant would be followed by a second attack against a military installation to be conducted by others who El Khalifi believed to be associated with al-Qaeda. The affidavit alleges that El Khalifi understood that his attack on the restaurant would be part of an al-Qaeda operation that would include both his restaurant bombing and the attack against a military installation.

On Jan. 15, 2012, according to the affidavit, El Khalifi modified his plans for his attack. Rather than conduct an attack on a restaurant, the document says, he wanted to conduct a suicide attack at the U.S. Capitol Building. That same day at a quarry in West Virginia, as a demonstration of the effects of the proposed suicide bomb operation, El Khalifi dialed a cell phone number that he believed would detonate a bomb placed in the quarry. The test bomb detonated, and El Khalifi expressed a desire for a larger explosion in his attack.

He also selected Feb. 17, 2012, as the day of the operation, according to the affidavit.