Law enforcement officers on Wednesday arrested a young Cincinnati area man alleged to have sympathized with the Islamic State and plotted to turn semi-automatic weapons on congressional officials and employees at the U.S. Capitol.
The arrested man, Christoper Lee Cornell, 20, of Green Township, Ohio, had taken on the alias Raheel Mahrus Ubaydah, according to an FBI affidavit filed in support of a criminal complaint filed in federal court in Cincinnati.
He is charged with attempting to kill officers and employees of the United States and possessing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence.
An FBI tipster alerted authorities last fall that Cornell had posted statements, videos and other content expressing support for the Islamic State and for violent jihad, including attacks in North America, the bureau affidavit said. The bureau’s source had begun cooperating in return for favorable treatment in an unrelated criminal exposure, it said.
On Aug. 29, 2014, Cornell sent the tipster an instant message stating that he doubted he would get a go-ahead from overseas to attempt a terrorist strike in the United States, but said he wanted to go forward anyway to support the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, the affidavit said. ISIL is an alternative name for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
“I believe that we should just wage jihad under our own orders and plan attacks and everything,” he wrote, citing a “thumbs up” from “the brothers over there” and Anwar al Awlaki, a jihadist cleric killed in a CIA drone strike in 2011 in Yemen, it said.
The FBI quoted Cornell as stating: “I believe we should meet up and make our own group in alliance with the Islamic State here and plan operations ourselves.”
Although Awlaki died over three years ago, his calls to jihad are still posted on the internet and have been credited with inspiring home-grown terrorism in the United States and elsewhere around the world.
In October, the affidavit said, Cornell met with the tipster, who presumably was wearing a hidden microphone. He allegedly said he needed weapons, setting a goal for an undisclosed attack for December 2014.
At a second meeting in mid November, Cornell indicated that he planned to attack the U.S. Capitol, because he considered members of Congress to be enemies, and that he and the FBI source would travel to Washington to conduct a reconnaissance on government security around the Capitol, it said.
He opened documents on his computer to show that he had researched how to build pipe bombs and the cost of firearms, identifying a nearby gun store where he could obtain a Smith & Wesson semi-automatic rifle, according to the affidavit.
This week, the bureau said, Cornell and the FBI source met and made final plans. On Wednesday, it said, Cornell bought two semi-automatic, M-15 refiles and about 600 rounds of ammunition.
He was then arrested by members of an FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, comprising officers and agents from the FBI, local police, the Ohio Highway Patrol, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Secret Service.