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Feds: Terror suspect picked target

Feb. 18, 2012 at 12:28 PM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 18 (UPI) -- A man charged with planning a suicide bombing at the U.S. Capitol had been working with FBI agents posing as al-Qaida operatives, investigators say.

Amine El Khalifi was arrested Friday near the Capitol in Washington. He believed the automatic weapon and suicide vest he had in his possession were functional, federal prosecutors said at a court hearing Friday.

Neil McBride, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said that while the weapons came from undercover agents, the plot was all Khalifi's. Khalifi "devised the plot, the targets and the methods on his own," McBride added.

Khalifi, 29, a Moroccan, came to the United States on a visitor's visa when he was 16. He had been living in the country illegally since his visa expired.

Ashraf Nubani, a Muslim lawyer in Washington who has defended suspects in similar cases, questioned what appears to be an increased use of FBI stings to arrest terrorism suspects.

"It's controlled from beginning to end by FBI. But you can't create a terrorism case and then say you stopped it," Nubani said. "Had the FBI not been involved, through their manipulation or informants, would the same thing have happened? Would there be attempted violence? They have their sights on certain people, the ones who talk big talk."

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