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FBI: Man planned to bomb US Capitol, kill officials

January 16, 2015

CINCINNATI (AP) — Twitter posts sympathizing with Islamic terrorists led to a 20-year-old man’s arrest on charges he plotted to blow up the U.S. Capitol and kill government officials.

According to a criminal complaint Wednesday, Christopher Lee Cornell, also known as Raheel Mahrus Ubaydah, told an FBI informant they should “wage jihad,” and showed his plans for bombing the Capitol and shooting people.

The FBI said Cornell expressed his support for the Islamic State.

Cornell’s arrest came only days after a grand jury indictment charged another Cincinnati-area resident with threatening to murder House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner.

The complaint against Cornell charges him with attempting to kill officers and employees of the United States.

Cornell was arrested Wednesday after buying two semi-automatic rifles and about 600 rounds of ammunition, authorities said.

Messages were left Thursday for attorney Karen Savir, a federal public defender listed in court records as Cornell’s attorney. A working phone number could not be found for Cornell’s family.

His father, John Cornell, told The Cincinnati Enquirer in a story for Thursday’s editions that his son was a “momma’s boy who never left the house.” He said his son endured frequent incidents of abuse as a practicing Muslim.

“Everything you’re hearing in the media right now, they’ve already painted him as some kind of terrorist,” John Cornell told the newspaper. ... “They’ve painted him as some kind of jihadist. ... (Christopher) is one of the most peace-loving people I know.”

In a statement Thursday from Oak Hills High School, which Cornell attended, Principal John Stoddard said teachers were shocked at the 2012 graduate’s alleged involvement in the plot. Stoddard said Cornell was a typical student, and teachers remember him as quiet but not overly reserved.

The complaint alleges that an FBI informant began supplying agents with information about Cornell last year. The informant and Cornell first began communicating through Twitter in August 2014, according to the complaint.

It’s unclear from the complaint if Cornell had contact with any terrorist groups, but in an instant message to the informant, Cornell wrote that he had been in contact with persons overseas.

“I believe we should meet up and make our own group in alliance with the Islamic State here and plan operations ourselves,” Cornell wrote in an instant message, according to the court document.

The two met in October in Cincinnati and again in November, and the complaint says Cornell discussed his plan for them to travel to Washington and conduct reconnaissance of the security of government buildings including the Capitol before executing “a plan of attack.”

Cornell planned for the two to detonate pipe bombs at and near the Capitol and then shoot and kill employees and officials, and Cornell had saved money to fund the attack, according to the complaint.

On Tuesday, authorities had disclosed that Cincinnati-area bartender Michael R. Hoyt, who has a history of mental illness, had been charged with threatening to kill Boehner at a country club near his home with a gun or a poisoned drink. A grand jury indictment against Hoyt was filed in U.S. District Court in Ohio on Jan. 7.

Hoyt, 44, is being held for mental evaluation and treatment at a federal medical center in Massachusetts.

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