WASHINGTON (AP) — A 29-year-old Moroccan man was arrested Friday in an FBI sting operation near the U.S. Capitol while planning to detonate what police said he thought were live explosives.
Amine El Khalifi of Alexandria, Va, was taken into custody with an inoperable gun and inert explosives given to him by the FBI, according to a counterterrorism official.
Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd said the suspect was closely monitored by law enforcement, and the public was not in danger.
El Khalifi had been under investigation for about a year and had overstayed his visitor visa for years, according to the counterterrorism official and a government official briefed on the matter who spoke on a condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.
The law enforcement official said El Khalifi changed his mind about his intended target several times but ultimately decided on the Capitol after canvassing the area a couple of times. He is not believed to be associated with al-Qaida.
Two people briefed on the matter told The Associated Press he was not arrested on the Capitol grounds, and the FBI has had him under surveillance around the clock for several weeks. They spoke on a condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
Associated Press writers Eric Tucker, Laurie Kellman, Adam Goldman, Matt Apuzzo and Eileen Sullivan contributed to this report.