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Foiled suicide bombing of US Capitol: plot is both familiar and strange

Since 9/11, a series of would-be attackers – many of them 'lone wolves' – have been thwarted by undercover agents posing as collaborators. But an attempted suicide bombing is unusual.

By Staff writer / February 17, 2012

An artists' courtroom sketch shows Amine El Khalifi, an illegal immigrant from Morocco, as he is brought before a judge in the Federal Courthouse in Alexandria, Va., Friday. El Khalifi was arrested near the US Capitol on Friday wearing a vest he believed was full of Al Qaeda-supplied explosives and charged in an attempted suicide bombing of Congress.

Dana Verkouteren/REUTERS

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The man accused of attempting a suicide bombing at the US Capitol building fell into what has become a typical trap set for would-be terrorist attackers in the United States.

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Amine El Khalifi, a 29-year-old immigrant from Morocco in the United States illegally, was arrested Friday following an undercover operation in which US agents – acting on Mr. El Khalifi’s expressed desire and intent to attack government and civilian targets on behalf of Al Qaeda – posed as collaborators, providing what seemed to be operable firearms and explosives.

It was the latest in a series of similar incidents:

  • Most recently, Rezwan Ferdaus, a 26-year-old US citizen and a graduate of Northeastern University in Boston, was arrested last September. He is accused of plotting to bomb the Capitol and the Pentagon using remotely-controlled model airplanes.
  • In a similar case last June, Abu Khalid Abdul-Latif and Walli Mujahidh were arrested when, according to authorities, they arrived at a warehouse to pick up machine guns they intended to use in an alleged terror plot directed at a US military facility near Seattle.
  • Before that, charges filed against Somalia-born Mohamed Osman Mohamud allege that he was prevented from exploding a bomb at the Pioneer Courthouse Square in Portland, Ore., where thousands of families had gathered for the traditional Christmas tree lighting.

In this most recent case, according to a US Justice Department statement, “In January 2011, a confidential human source reported to the FBI that El Khalifi met with other individuals at a residence in Arlington, Va…. During this meeting, one individual produced what appeared to be an AK-47, two revolvers and ammunition. El Khalifi allegedly expressed 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.”

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