Foiled Suicide Plot Against Capitol Hatched in Alexandria, Arlington
Federal officials executed search warrants on South Randolph Street on Friday following the arrest of 29-year-old Amine El Khalifi.
A 29-year-old immigrant from Morocco who was in the United States illegally was arrested Friday as he was on his way into the U.S. Capitol to shoot people and detonate a suicide bomb, according to federal documents.
Amine El Khalifi of Alexandria was charged in a criminal complaint with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction against property that is owned and used by the United States.
El Khalifi believed he would be acting on behalf of al-Qaida, and on Jan. 15 changed his original plan to attack a restaurant frequented by high-ranking military officers to martyrdom at the U.S. Capitol, according to federal documents.
“This individual allegedly followed a twisted, radical ideology that is not representative of the Muslim community in the United States,” FBI Assistant Director in Charge James McJunkin stated in a news release.
“He became known to the (Joint Terrorism Task Force) because of his stated desire to carry out attacks in the U.S., specifically, the U.S. Capitol building. 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.”
According to an affidavit filed Friday in federal court in Alexandria, El Khalifi met with individuals at an Arlington residence on Jan. 11, 2011, where he allegedly agreed with statements "that the 'war on terrorism' was a 'war on Muslims,' and said the group needed to be ready for war."
He was eventually introduced to a man he knew as "Yusuf" -- in actuality, an undercover officer -- and throughout December 2011 and January 2012 he talked of targeting an unidentified building that contained U.S. military offices, a synagogue, U.S. Army generals and a restaurant frequented by military officials, according to federal documents.
The federal affidavit states he conducted surveillance both on the restaurant and the U.S. Capitol.
During meetings with Yusuf, El Khalifi allegedly handled an AK-47 and talked about conducting an operation in which he would "use a gun and kill people face-to-face."
As he began acquiring items for improvised explosive devices -- including hardware store-grade glue and nails -- he talked about the need for a larger explosion, the affidavit states.
He selected Feb. 17, 2012, as the day of his martyrdom. When a man known to him as "Hussien" told El Khalifi that al-Qaida wnted to release a video of the attack on the Capitol and the military installation, he said he wanted to be referred in the recording only as "al maghrabi," the affidavit states.
On Valentine's Day, El Khalifi met Hussein and Yusuf in an unidentified Alexandria hotel and obtained an automatic weapon and a jacket that he believed contained a bomb, the affidavit states.
He did not know that U.S. law enforcement officials had rendered each inoperable or inert, the document states.
Earlier today, El Khalifi was driven to a parking garage near the Capitol. He left the vehicle with what he believed to be a functional weapon and bomb and began walking toward the Capitol, the affidavit states.
He was arrested before leaving the parking garage.
FBI and local law enforcement officials Friday conducted searches of homes in Alexandria and Arlington in connection to El Khalifi's arrest.
Officers were seen entering and exiting a brick house at 1608 S. Randolph St. in Arlington's Douglas Park community Friday evening.
At one point, investigators carried a plastic storage bin out of the front door of that house. A portion of South Randolph Street was blocked.
El Khalifi was born in Morocco and came to the United States in June 1997 on a tourism visa, according to the federal affidavit. The visa expired in 1999, and he has been living in this country illegally ever since.
He never applied for citizenship, the affidavit states.
El Khalifi made his initial appearance in federal court Friday afternoon. A federal public defender was appointed to represent him, said Peter Carr, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Eastern District of Virginia.
If convicted, El Khalifi faces a maximum penalty of life in prison.