The FBI arrested a man suspected of planning to carry out a suicide attack against the U.S. Capitol on Friday. But the would-be suicide bomber, identified as a Moroccan national who resided in Alexandria, Virginia, was the target of a lengthy FBI undercover investigation and the public was never in any danger, FBI and Justice Department officials stressed.
The man, identified as Amine El Khalifi, 29, was charged Friday by criminal complaint with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction against U.S. property, according to the Justice Department. If convicted, he could receive a maximum sentence of life in prison.
According to the criminal complaint affidavit, a confidential source reported to the FBI that El Khalifi met with other people at a home in Arlington, Virginia and expressed sentiments that the group needed to be ready for war. Over the next month, El Khalifi made frequent trips to the U.S. Capitol for surveillance and observation, finding where he would enter the building, choosing the time for the attack and studying how to avoid police officers, according to the FBI affidavit.
On Friday, El Khalifi allegedly drove to a parking garage near the U.S. Capitol. He carried with him a MAC-10 automatic weapon and wore a suicide-bomber vest reportedly given to him by FBI undercover agents posing as accomplices in the sting operation. But, unbeknownst to El Khalifi, both the weapon and vest were rendered non-functional by the police. El Khalifi walked alone from his car towards the Capitol building, where he allegedly intended to shoot people and blow up the bomb, but was apprehended before leaving the parking garage, said the Justice Department.
"Explosives the suspect allegedly sought to use in connection with the plot had been rendered inoperable by law enforcement and posed no threat to the public," Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd told Yahoo News in a statement Friday.
"The arrest was the culmination of an extensive operation during which the individual was closely monitored," Andrew Ames, spokesman for the FBI Washington D.C. field office, told Yahoo News. " At no time was the public in any danger."
Mike Levine, who first reported the arrest on Fox News, said that the man became the target of an FBI undercover terrorism investigation after he allegedly expressed interest in carrying out an attack.
El Khalifi had been under investigation for a year, U.S. officials told the Washington Post.
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