Defendant Allegedly Sought to be Associated with an Armed Extremist Group, Believed He Would Take Part in al-Qaeda Attack
On Friday, the Department of Justice said that FBI agents had arrested a man for allegedly attempting to detonate a bomb in a planned suicide attack on the U.S. Capitol Building.
Amine El Khalifi, a 29-year-old immigrant from Morocco living illegally in Alexandria, Va., was arrested on Friday and charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction against United States property.
The Capitol was not under any clear and present danger during the incident, however, as the FBI had been tracking El Khalifi as part of an undercover operation and played a part in the would-be terrorist operation. In fact, the bomb and firearm that El Khalifi allegedly sought and attempted to use, had been rendered inoperable by the authorities.
“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. “El Khalifi allegedly believed he was working with al-Qaeda and devised the plot, the targets and the methods on his own.”
According to the criminal complaint affidavit, in January 2011, a source reported to the FBI that El Khalifi had met with others at a residence in Arlington, Va., on Jan. 11, 2011. During the meeting, an individual produced what appeared to be an AK-47, two revolvers, and ammunition.
El Khalifi allegedly was in 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. El Khalifi allegedly wanted to be associated with an armed extremist group, and on December 1, 2011, was introduced by a man he knew as “Hussien” to a man named “Yusuf,” who was actually an undercover law enforcement officer. Throughout December 2011 and January 2012, El Khalifi allegedly 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.
During meetings with the undercover agent, El Khalifi allegedly handled an AK-47 and indicated his desire to use a gun and kill people face-to-face. He also allegedly selected a restaurant in Washington, D.C., 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.
On January 7, 2012, “Hussien” told El Khalifi that he was an al-Qaeda operative. El Khalifi allegedly said 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 believed 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.
The affidavit alleges that on January 15, 2012, El Khalifi wanted to change the plans for his attack, and rather than bomb a restaurant, he wanted to conduct a suicide attack at the U.S. Capitol Building. Later that day, at a quarry in West Virginia, in a demonstration of the effects of the proposed suicide bomb operation, El Khalifi dialed a cell phone number that he was told would detonate a bomb placed in the quarry. The test bomb detonated, but El Khalifi wanted a bigger bomb for a larger explosion in his attack. He also said that February 17, 2012, would be the day he would conduct his attack, according to the affidavit.
Over the next month, the affidavit alleges that El Khalifi visited the U.S. Capitol Building on several occasions to conduct surveillance and select the spot where he would be dropped off to enter the building for the attack. He also chose a specific time and method he would use in order to avoid attracting the attention of law enforcement during execution of his attack. El Khalifi also asked Hussien to remotely detonate the bomb he would be wearing on the day of the attack if El Khalifi encountered problems with security officers. Additionally, El Khalifi asked to be provided with a gun that he could use to shoot any officers who might attempt to stop him.
On February 17, 2012, El Khalifi allegedly traveled to a parking garage near the U.S. Capitol Building. He then took possession of a MAC-10 automatic weapon and put on a vest containing what he thought was a functioning bomb. Little did El Khalifi know, both the weapon and the bomb were inoperable. El Khalifi then walked toward the Capitol Building, where he intended to shoot people and detonate the bomb. It was then that authorities made their move and arrested El Khalifi shortly before exiting the parking garage.
El Khalifi made his initial appearance on Friday, February 17, and if convicted, faces a maximum penalty of life in prison. The charges contained in the criminal complaint are allegations, and as in any criminal case, the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
“Today’s case underscores the continuing threat we face from homegrown violent extremists,” said Assistant Attorney General Monaco. “Thanks to a coordinated law enforcement effort, El Khalifi’s alleged plot was thwarted before anyone was harmed.”