CRIME

Amine El Khalifi pleads guilty in Capitol bomb plot

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WASHINGTON (AP/ABC7) - A Virginia man accused in an alleged bomb plot against the U.S. Capitol pleaded guilty in an Alexandria courtroom on Friday.

Court sketch: Bill Hennessey
Photo: Associated Press

Amine El Khalifi was charged in February following a year-long undercover FBI investigation. He was arrested in a parking lot, wearing what he thought was an explosive-laden suicide vest. He pleaded guilty to one count of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction .

As part of a plea agreement, El Khalifi will likely receive 25-30 years in prison when he's sentenced on Sept. 14. The Moroccan native was observed laughing and joking with his attorneys before the judge entered the chambers at the plea hearing.

"Amine El Khalifi sought to bring down the U.S. Capitol and kill as many people as possible," U.S. Attorney Neal 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."

The incident happened on Feb. 17 after a lengthy FBI sting. El Khalifi, who authorities say is a Moroccan citizen who overstayed his visa, believed he was talking to operatives from Al Qaida throughout the operation.

El Khalifi, who lived in Alexandria, could have faced life in prison if convicted at trial.

Court documents say that El Khalifi, who came to the United States in 1999, met with an undercover agent in January 2011 because he felt that the "war on terror" was really a "war on Muslims."

After changing his intended target numerous times, El Khalifi was given a dummy bomb and an inoperable pistol with the intention of attacking the Capitol building. He was arrested in a parking garage while on his way to carry out what he thought would be the attack.

His public defenders did not immediately return a call from the Associated Press seeking comment Friday.

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