Amine El Khalifi, the Virginia man arrested by FBI agents as he approached the U.S. Capitol building with what he believed was a bomb, pleaded guilty to one count of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction on Friday.
Under his plea agreement, federal prosecutors will recommend a sentence of between 25 and 30 years in prison when he is sentenced on Sept. 14.
The undercover operation unfolded in January 2011 when a source told the FBI that El Khalifi met with a number of individuals at a home in Arlington, VA and said he believed the “war on terrorism” was a “war on Muslims.”
El Khalifi, an illegal immigrant from Morocco, was later introduced by a man he knew as “Hussien” to an undercover FBI agent known as “Yusuf.” During the course of the investigation, El Khalifi visited a quarry in West Virginia and dialed a cell phone he thought would set off a bomb similar to the one he thought he would be using in his planned attack on the Capitol.
As TPM reported after his arrest in February, El Khalifi switched his target several times during the course of the undercover operation:
An affidavit from an FBI agent filed in federal court Friday says that Amine El Khalifi planned to explode a bomb at an office building in Alexandria that contained military offices, then wanted to attack a synagogue, then decided to target an Army general, then a government building, then a restaurant next to that building because it was frequented by military officials.
Later on — after El Khalifi had purchased nails, glue and cell phones for use in what he thought was an separate planned al-Qaeda attack against a military installation — he decided that he’d rather go on a “suicide/martyrdom operation in which he would blow himself up in the United States Capitol Building,” according to an FBI affidavit.