A 29-year-old Moroccan man was arrested Fridaynear the U.S. Capitol as he was planning todetonate what he thought was a suicide vest, givento him by FBI undercover operatives, said policeand government officials.
Amine El Khalifi of Alexandria, Va., was takeninto custody with an inoperable gun and inertexplosives, according to a counterterrorismofficial.
El Khalifi made a brief appearance in federalcourt in Alexandria, Va., on Friday afternoon,wearing a green shirt and black pants and holdinghis arms together behind his back. A judge set abail hearing in his case for Wednesday at 2 p.m.
A criminal complaint charges him with knowinglyand unlawfully attempting to use a weapon of massdestruction against property that is owned andused by the United States.
El Khalifi expressed interest in killing at least30 people and considered targeting a building inAlexandria and a restaurant, synagogue and a placewhere military personnel gather in Washingtonbefore he settled on the Capitol after canvassingthat area a couple of times, the counterterrorismofficial said. During the investigation, theofficial said, El Khalifi went with undercoveroperatives to a quarry in the Washington area todetonate explosives.
El Khalifi came to the U.S. when he was 16 yearsold and is unemployed and not believed to beassociated with al-Qaida. He had been underinvestigation for about a year and had overstayedhis visitor visa for years, according to thecounterterrorism official and a governmentofficial briefed on the matter who spoke on acondition of anonymity because the investigationis ongoing.
A former landlord in Arlington, Va., said hebelieved El Khalifi was suspicious and calledpolice a year and a half ago.
Frank Dynda said when he told El Khalifi to leave,the suspect said he had a right to stay andthreatened to beat up Dynda. Dynda said he thoughtEl Khalifi was making bombs, but police told himto leave the man alone. Dynda had El Khalifievicted in 2010.
El Khalifi had several men staying with him andbased on packages left for him, Dynda said. Itappeared that he was running a luggage businessfrom the apartment, though Dynda never saw anybags.
"I reported to police I think he's making bombs,"Dynda said. "I was ready to get my shotgun and runhim out of the building, but that would have beena lot of trouble."
Police are close to arresting one of El Khalifi'sassociates on charges unrelated to the terrorconspiracy, the counterterrorism official said.The associate was said to also be a Moroccan,living here illegally. Police are investigatingothers El Khalifi associated with, but not becausethey believe the associates were part of a terrorconspiracy, the official said.
Two people briefed on the matter told TheAssociated Press he was not arrested on theCapitol grounds, and the FBI has had him undersurveillance around the clock for several weeks.They spoke on a condition of anonymity becausethey were not authorized to speak publicly.