A Morocco national living illegally in a West End condo, El Khalifi was arrested February 17 after undercover members of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force provided him with explosives and guidance to blow himself up in front of the Capitol.
He faces 25 to 30 years imprisonment following the plea deal.
“Amine El Khalifi sought to bring down the U.S. Capitol and kill as many people as possible,” said U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride. “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.”
In December of last year, Khalifi sought to join an armed extremist group, according to court records, and an acquaintance named “Huessein” — actually an FBI operative — introduced him to “Yusuf,” another undercover agent.
In January, a source reported El Khalifi went to an Arlington residence where an individual produced an AK-47 assault rifle, two revolvers and ammunition. El Khalifi allegedly agreed with the individual that the “war on terrorism” was a “war on Muslims” and that they needed to prepare for war, according to court documents.
El Khalifi, under the impression he was al-Qaeda operative, at first planned to bomb a D.C. restaurant frequented by military officials, a military installation, Army generals and a synagogue, Department of Justice spokesman Peter Carr said in a statement.
The would-be terrorist decided January 15 he would instead attack the Capitol by strapping a bomb to his chest. That same day at a West Virginia quarry, El Khalifi dialed a cell phone number that he believed would detonate a test bomb. It worked, but he wanted a bigger explosion, Carr said.
For the next month, El Khalifi scoped out the Capitol several times — conducting surveillance, choosing where to enter the building and the specific time of attack, how to avoid attention from law enforcement. He even prepared his accomplice to detonate the bomb remotely in case the operation snagged.
On February 17 El Khalifi prepared to kill Americans in a parking garage near the Capitol. He began walking toward the building with an automatic rifle and a vest containing what he thought was a functioning bomb when law enforcement arrested him before he exited the garage.
“I thank all those responsible for ensuring that El Khalifi’s violent plans never came to fruition,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney General Lisa Monaco.
His sentencing is scheduled for September 14.