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Moroccan pleads guilty to suicide bomb plot on US Capitol

Amine El Khalifi, an illegal immigrant from Morocco, admitted Friday to planning a suicide-bomb mission aimed at the US Capitol Building. He believed the operation was sponsored by Al Qaeda, but the FBI was linked in all along.

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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, Virginia, in February.

Dana Verkouteren/Reuters/Handout

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An undocumented immigrant from Morocco pleaded guilty on Friday to attempting to carry out a suicide bomb attack on the US Capitol Building in February.

Amine El Khalifi of Alexandria, Va., admitted in federal court that he planned to detonate a jacket-bomb and use a gun to carry out a terrorist attack in what he thought was an operation sponsored by Al Qaeda.

In fact, Mr. El Khalifi was dealing with an undercover law enforcement official posing as a terrorist but who was really working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

El Khalifi has been in federal custody since his arrest on Feb. 17, shortly after undercover agents dropped him off in a parking garage and he started walking toward the Capitol, presumably to carry out the attack. At the time he was wearing the jacket-bomb and carrying a MAC-10 automatic weapon. He was arrested soon after leaving the vehicle.

Unknown to El Khalifi, both the bomb and the MAC-10 had been rendered inoperable by undercover officers.

El Khalifi admitted the charges as part of a plea agreement. Although he faces up to life in prison, the government has agreed to recommend he receive a sentence of 25 to 30 years in prison. He also agreed to not contest his deportation to Morocco after serving his sentence.

US District Judge James Cacheris set sentencing for Sept. 14.

“Amine El Khalifi sought to bring down the US Capitol and kill as many people as possible,” US Attorney Neil MacBride said in a statement. “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.”

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