An Ohio man who claimed solidarity with the Islamic State terror group was arrested Wednesday after plotting to bomb the U.S. Capitol and shoot federal government officials as they fled, prosecutors announced in Washington and Ohio.
The man, identified as 20-year-old Christopher Lee Cornell of Green Township near Cincinnati, was charged in a criminal complaint and arrested by federal anti-terror agents and Ohio police. The complaint was filed in federal court, where Cornell had not yet entered a plea in the case.
In court documents, FBI special agent T.A. Staderman said that Cornell came to the attention of authorities after he began posting statements online in support of Islamic State last summer under the alias, Raheel Mahrus Ubaydah.
“I believe that we should just wage jihad under our own orders and plan attacks and everything,” he allegedly said in one posting.
In other messages on social media, Cornell allegedly voiced his support for violent jihad and the work of violent extremists in North Africa and elsewhere.
Concerned about the postings, authorities placed a confidential informant close to Cornell. Staderman said that in August, Cornell sent Twitter messages to the informant saying that attacks in the U.S. would be “their way of supporting” the Islamic State.
“We already got a thumbs up from the Brothers over there and Anwar al Awlaki before his martyrdom and many others,” he allegedly wrote.
Awlaki was an American citizen and Yemeni imam who was killed in a 2011 U.S. drone strike after serving as a top Al Qaeda leader.
“I believe we should meet up and make our own group in alliance with the Islamic State here and plan operations ourselves,” he reportedly wrote.
Staderman said Cornell later showed the informant bomb-making instructions and other jihadist propaganda on his laptop computer, and said that after their third meeting it would be time to “move.”
He described U.S. members of Congress as “enemies,” Staderman said. Cornell also allegedly told the informant that they would plant pipe bombs around the Capitol building and then shoot government officials fleeing the area.
Staderman said Cornell purchased two semi-automatic rifles and 600 rounds of ammunition on Wednesday, and was promptly arrested.
He was charged with the attempted killing of a U.S. government officer and possession of a firearm in furtherance of an attempted crime of violence.