A 29-year-old Moroccan man was arrested Friday near the U.S. Capitol as he was planning to detonate what he thought was an explosives vest as part of a would-be suicide mission, police and government authorities said.
Amine El Khalifi of Alexandria, Va., was taken into custody with an inoperable gun and inert explosives given to him by undercover FBI agents as part of a long-running sting operation, the Associated Press reported:
El Khalifi expressed interest in killing at least 30 people and considered targeting a building in Alexandria and a restaurant, synagogue and a place where military personnel gather in Washington before he settled on the Capitol after canvassing that area a couple of times, the counterterrorism official said. During the investigation, the official said, El Khalifi went with undercover operatives to a quarry in the Washington area to detonate explosives.
El Khalifi came to the U.S. when he was 16 years old and is unemployed and not believed to be associated with al-Qaida. He had been under investigation for about a year and had overstayed his visitor visa for years, according to the counterterrorism official and a government official briefed on the matter who spoke on a condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.
According to Fox News, El Khalifi thought the undercover FBI agents assisting him were Al Qaida associates. He had been praying at a mosque in the Washington area prior to being arrested.
According to CNN, the man was arrested as soon as he accepted the vest from undercover officers as part of a sting operation. A federal law enforcement official said the operation had been going at least since December and that the man is not connected to a terrorist organization.
Washington NBC affiliate WRC-TV reported FBI officials believe at this point the man was acting alone.
This post has been updated since it was first published.