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Feb 22, 2012 11:22 AM by Matt Stafford

Suspect in Capitol bomb sting expected in court

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) - A Virginia man charged following a yearlong FBI investigation with plotting a suicide bombing inside the U.S. Capitol was expected to make a second court appearance Wednesday.

Amine El Khalifi, 29, of Alexandria was arrested Friday and charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. He was being held in jail and had a preliminary hearing scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.

Authorities say El Khalifi - a native of Morocco who was living illegally in the U.S. for more than a decade, according to court documents - discussed plans to attack an Alexandria office building and a synagogue with an undercover operative he thought was a member of al-Qaida. Later, El Khalifi allegedly volunteered to wear a suicide vest and to kill himself in a martyrdom operation at the Capitol.

El Khalifi went as far as to don a suicide vest provided to him by the undercover operatives before he was arrested on Friday, according to an FBI affidavit. The suicide vest turned out to be inert, and a gun that had been provided to him to shoot his way past security guards also was inoperative. Officials say the public was never in danger.

According to court papers, El Khalifi told his supposed co-conspirators that he would be happy if he could kill 30 people in the attack.

It is not entirely clear how El Khalifi came to the attention of authorities. Court papers state only that a confidential source reported El Khalifi to the FBI in January 2011 after he allegedly met with others at an Arlington residence and told others that the group needed to be ready for war, and that he agreed with others who believed the war on terror to be a war on Muslims. One individual at that meeting produced what appeared to be an AK-47 rifle.

El Khalifi, who is being represented by the federal public defender, faces up to life in prison.

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