A terror suspect was arrested in Washington DC yesterday as he prepared to launch what he thought would be a lethal suicide attack on the US Congress.
The man, said to be from Morocco, was detained as he made his way to carry out the attack, wearing a concealed vest packed with what he believed were explosives.
The materials were in fact inert and had been supplied to him by FBI agents pretending to be al-Qa'ida members. Officials did not indicate that the terror network was involved, however, meaning he may have been acting alone.
The FBI stressed that because of its investigation no one on Capitol Hill had been in danger of physical harm, but the mere fact that such a plot existed, and that it might have been carried out by a would-be radical Islamist, will be a sobering reminder that the terror risk on US soil remains even after the death of Osama bin Laden.
"We can confirm that there has been an arrest of a suspect in Washington DC in connection with a terrorism investigation," said Peter Carr, a spokesman for prosecutors in nearby Virginia, where the FBI investigation and surveillance operation were based. "The arrest was the culmination of an undercover operation, during which the suspect was closely monitored by law enforcement. Explosives the suspect allegedly sought to use in connection with the plot [were] rendered inoperable by law enforcement and posed no threat to the public."
Many details of the foiled plot were still not available last night. But it appeared that the man entered the US from Morocco with a family member and came to the attention of anti-terror agents soon afterwards. The FBI then set about duping him that their agents were al-Qa'ida contacts dispatched to help him carry out the bombing.
The suspect, said to be in his 30s, was tracked by undercover agents as he arrived in Washington and made his way to Capitol Hill. He was arrested in a car park at the Labour Department, just a few blocks from Congress.
The drama came a day after Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian, was jailed for life for trying to blow up a Delta Airlines flight as it approached Detroit on Christmas Day 2009, with a bomb hidden in his underpants.