The FBI Wednesday arrested an Ohio man for allegedly plotting an ISIS-inspired attack on the U.S. Capitol, where he hoped to set off a series of bombs aimed at lawmakers, whom he allegedly considered enemies.
Christopher Lee Cornell, 20, of Green Township, was arrested on charges of attempting to kill a U.S. government official, authorities said.
According to government documents, he allegedly planned to detonate pipe bombs at the national landmark and open fire on any employees and officials fleeing after the explosions.
The FBI first noticed Cornell several months ago after an informant notified the agency that Cornell was allegedly voicing support for violent “jihad” on Twitter accounts under the alias “Raheel Mahrus Ubaydah,” according to charging documents. In addition, Cornell allegedly posted statements, videos and other content expressing support for ISIS -- the brutal terrorist group also known as ISIL -- that is wreaking havoc in Iraq and Syria.
"I believe that we should just wage jihad under our own orders and plan attacks and everything,” Cornell allegedly wrote in an online message to the informant in August, according to the FBI. “I believe we should meet up and make our own group in alliance with the Islamic State here and plan operations ourselves."
In the message, Cornell said that such attacks “already got a thumbs up” from radical cleric Anwar Awlaki “before his martyrdom.”
Awlaki was killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2011, but his online messages calling for attacks on the West live on.
U.S. officials considered Awlaki an operational leader within al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Yemen-based terror group tied to the deadly assault on a satirical magazine in Paris last week.
Cornell and the informant met in Cincinnati over two days in October, and then another two days in November. During the last meeting, Cornell told an FBI informant that members of Congress were enemies and that he wanted to launch an attack on the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., according to charging documents.
Cornell then allegedly saved money to finance the attack and researched how to build bombs, the FBI said.
Earlier Wednesday, while also taking “final steps” to travel to Washington for the attack, Cornell allegedly bought two semi-automatic rifles and 600 rounds of ammunition from a store in Ohio, authorities said.
Within hours of Cornell’s arrest, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security issued a bulletin to law enforcement agencies across the country notifying them of the case.
"The alleged activities of Cornell highlight the continued interest of US-based violent extremists to support designated foreign terrorist organizations overseas, such as ISIL, by committing terrorist acts in the United States,” the bulletin read. “Terrorist group members and supporters will almost certainly continue to use social media platforms to disseminate English language violent extremist messages."