A man who thought he could walk into the U.S. Capitol and detonate a suicide bomb pleaded guilty Friday to one count of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. Amine El-Khalifi, an illegal immigrant from Morocco, was motivated by his belief that the "war on terrorism" was a "war on Muslims."
Khalifi, 29, was arrested Feb. 17 as he made his way toward the Capitol with what he thought was a suicide bomb vest and a MAC-10 automatic. He initially expressed a desire to carry out a terrorist attack in December and discussed a variety of targets in Washington and northern Virginia before settling on the Capitol Dome.
According to a statement of facts, he made a series of scouting trips earlier this year, identifying where he would try to walk in with the bomb and how he might try to evade security. That included his intent to shoot a police officer at the door who might block his entry. He asked an associate to detonate the bomb remotely if he wasn't able to do it.
The bomb was provided by FBI agents and inert, never posing an actual threat to safety.
"Amine El Khalifi sought to bring down the U.S. Capitol and kill as many people as possible," said U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride in a statement. "He admitted today that he picked the targets, weapons, and means of the suicide attack while working with someone he believed was an Al Qaeda operative."
El Khalifi accepted the gun and bomb vest in a van parked in a Capitol Hill garage. He "walked alone from the vehicle toward the United States Capitol, where he intended to shoot people and detonate the bomb," the statement of facts said.
The notion of an American "war on Islam" is considered among the most effective narratives used in radicalizing Muslims. Yet, the phrase often has been invoked often by American Islamist organizations.