February 17, 2012 - The FBI arrested a Moroccan man near the U.S. Capitol this afternoon. The man was in the U.S. illegally and - from all accounts - was working alone. Amine el-Khalifi, 29, reports The Washington Post, "was picked up while carrying an inoperable gun and a fake suicide vest provided to him by undercover FBI agents posing as al-Qaeda associates, U.S. officials said. The Post says that Khalifi was a resident of Alexandria, Virginia and "had been under investigation for about a year."
Shortly before el-Khalifi was arrested, says Fox News, he was "praying at a mosque in the Washington area." El-Khalifi's destination was Capitol Hill, where he allegedly intended to blow himself up.
Fox also says that he has been in the US "for about 12 years" and that he "allegedly weighed hitting various targets ranging from a military installation to synagogues before settling on the Capitol."
The FBI was investigating el-Khalifi for about one year, and arrested him as he was on his way to the Capitol. His arrest was the result of a lengthy sting operation that involved supplying him with a non-working gun and a vest that he thought was packed with real explosives.
The FBI says el-Khalifi was allegedly planning "to detonate what police say he thought were live explosives," reports the AP. "U.S. Capitol Police say their officers and FBI officials arrested him Friday in a sting operation. Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd said the suspect was closely monitored by law enforcement, and the purported explosives were deactivated, so the public was not in danger." Although el-Khalifi was working alone, the FBI led him to believe that the agents assisting him in were working with al-Qaeda.
El-Khalifi is a Moroccan national who had overstayed his visitor's visa for years, according to officials. El-Khalifi "had been under investigation for about a year, according to a counterterrorism official and a law enforcement official," reports AP.
In January 2011, says a report at TheBostonChannel, "a confidential source reported to the FBI that El-Khalifi met with other individuals at a residence in Arlington, Virginia. A person there produced what appeared to be weapons and El-Khalifi 'expressed agreement with a statement by this individual that the "war on terrorism" was a "war on Muslim," and said that the group needed to be ready for war,' the affidavit read." El-Khalifi allegedly also stated that he would "be happy killing 30 people."
"Details of today's arrest and the nature of the alleged plot are still emerging," says DCist.com, "though what is known so far sounds considerably more low-tech than another recent bust on a potential attack on the Capitol."