A suspect in a planned suicide bombing attack on Congress has pled guilty to charges against him in federal court.
Amine El Khalifi, 29, appeared in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., on Friday afternoon on charges of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction against property that is owned and used by the United States.
Alexandria resident El Khalifi’s arrest was the culmination of an extensive investigation by the FBI, which included undercover agents posing as members of al Qaeda.
A bearded and tattooed El Khalifi was led into the courtroom in handcuffs Friday and joked with his defense attorneys before entering his guilty plea. During his appearance, his defense attorney Kenneth Troccoli told the court his client had previously served time in the District in 2007 for two counts of simple assault.
U.S. Federal Judge James Cacheris remanded El Khalifi back into custody until his sentencing date of Sept. 14 pending a pre-sentence report. Under the terms of his plea agreement, El Khalifi will receive a sentence of 25 to 30 years in prison. If convicted, he could have faced a maximum penalty of life in prison.
Neil MacBride, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, expressed satisfaction with the plea agreement following Friday’s hearing.
MacBride stated that the U.S. Capitol was not El Khalifi’s initial target, but instead one settled upon after he considered targeting first a synagogue, then a crowded District restaurant.
El Khalifi was in possession of explosives and a firearm that had been rendered inoperable by law enforcement prior to his arrest outside the Capitol. But MacBride stated that El Khalifi planned to use the weapon to shoot at U.S. Capitol Police in order to gain entrance to the building.
“He absolutely was the real deal,” MacBride told reporters of the threat El Khalifi posed. “He believed he was working with an al Qaeda operative.”