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Foiled suicide bombing of US Capitol: plot is both familiar and strange

Since 9/11, a series of would-be attackers – many of them 'lone wolves' – have been thwarted by undercover agents posing as collaborators. But an attempted suicide bombing is unusual.

An artists' courtroom sketch shows Amine El Khalifi, an illegal immigrant from Morocco, as he is brought before a judge in the Federal Courthouse in Alexandria, Va., Friday. El Khalifi was arrested near the US Capitol on Friday wearing a vest he believed was full of Al Qaeda-supplied explosives and charged in an attempted suicide bombing of Congress.

Dana Verkouteren/REUTERS

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The man accused of attempting a suicide bombing at the US Capitol building fell into what has become a typical trap set for would-be terrorist attackers in the United States.

Amine El Khalifi, a 29-year-old immigrant from Morocco in the United States illegally, was arrested Friday following an undercover operation in which US agents – acting on Mr. El Khalifi’s expressed desire and intent to attack government and civilian targets on behalf of Al Qaeda – posed as collaborators, providing what seemed to be operable firearms and explosives.

It was the latest in a series of similar incidents:

  • Most recently, Rezwan Ferdaus, a 26-year-old US citizen and a graduate of Northeastern University in Boston, was arrested last September. He is accused of plotting to bomb the Capitol and the Pentagon using remotely-controlled model airplanes.
  • In a similar case last June, Abu Khalid Abdul-Latif and Walli Mujahidh were arrested when, according to authorities, they arrived at a warehouse to pick up machine guns they intended to use in an alleged terror plot directed at a US military facility near Seattle.
  • Before that, charges filed against Somalia-born Mohamed Osman Mohamud allege that he was prevented from exploding a bomb at the Pioneer Courthouse Square in Portland, Ore., where thousands of families had gathered for the traditional Christmas tree lighting.

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