A 20-year-old American arrested in Cincinnati is charged with plotting to bomb the U.S. Capitol and murder government officials.
Here’s what you should know about Christopher Lee Cornell and what the FBI calls his “ISIS-inspired plot”:
1. Cornell Posted on Twitter as Raheel Mahrus Ubaydah
Cornell posted support for known terror groups, mainly ISIS, on Twitter under the alias Raheel Mahrus Ubaydah. He began making the tweets during the summer of 2014.
An FBI statement about the apprehension read:
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. Terrorist group members and supporters will almost certainly continue to use social media platforms to disseminate English language violent extremist messages.
The FBI criminal complaint says that Cornell is charged with the attempted killing of a U.S. government officer, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of attempted crime of violence. You can read the full FBI press release about the arrest here:
2. His Partner Was an FBI Co-Operator
Documents state that Cornell met with an FBI co-operator in October and November to discuss an attack on the Capitol. During the meetings, Cornell allegedly showed the FBI co-operator jihadi videos and a clip on how to make bombs.
In addition to bombing the building, Cornell allegedly wanted to shoot politicians and government employees as they fled the explosions. You can read the full criminal complaint here:
Court documents say the co-operator was working with the FBI in return for leniency on an unrelated crime. That co-operator first made contact with Cornell over Twitter in August 2014, and the two also spoke frequently on what the FBI calls a “separate messaging platform.” In one conversation, Cornell told his comrade, “I believe that we should just wage jihad under our own orders and plan attacks and everything.” He added, “We already got a thumbs up from the Brothers over there and Anwar al Awlaki before his martyrdom and many others.” During another exchange, Cornell said, “I believe we should meet up and make our own group in alliance with the Islamic State here and plan operations ourselves.”
The alleged attack on the Capitol was planned for December 2015. Fox News reporter Chad Pergram tweeted that authorities regarded the plot as “aspirational” and that there was never any real threat. During one of the meetings between Cornell and the FBI co-operator, Cornell stressed that he wanted the pair to travel to D.C. on a “reconnaissance” mission. The docs add that Cornell “considered the members of Congress as enemies and … intended to conduct an attack on the U.S. Capitol.”
3. He Was Arrested at the Point Blank Gun Store & Range
Cornell purchased guns, allegedly for the attack, on January 14, 2015. That’s when he was arrested. According to documents, Cornell bought two M-15 semi-automatic rifles.
According to neighbors, FBI agents were at Cornell’s home at 1 p.m. on January 14. WLWT reports that Point Blank’s manager John Dean was told about Cornell by FBI agents. He was told to cooperate and sell Cornell the guns. After the purchase was made, agents swooped.
4. His Dad Said Cornell Was a ‘Mama’s Boy’ Who Was ‘Lost & Vulnerable’
The school’s principal, John Stoddard, told WKRC, “During his time at Oak Hills High School, he was a typical student. Christopher was not a disruption or a discipline problem in school. His teachers were shocked at the news of his involvement in this situation. Teachers at Oak Hills High School remember Christopher as a quiet, but not overly reserved, student who would participate in class and did not withdraw from class work.” In his interview with WCPO, Cornell’s dad, John, said that his son was “lost and vulnerable” during his time in high school.
Local 12 in Cincinnati also interviewed John Cornell. He told that station that his son “was like a 16-year-old who never left the house” and called his Cornell a “mama’s boy.” You can watch John Cornell talk about his son here:
In a separate interview with WCPO, John Cornell said that he believes his son was set up because Cornell wouldn’t have had the money for the guns. The owners of Point Blank told WLWT reporter Tammy Mutasas that Cornell paid $1,900 for the guns. John Cornell added that agents confiscated his son’s computer and a beginner’s guide to Islam book.
5. He Thought 9/11 Was an ‘Inside Job’
Local 12 reports that Cornell interupted a 9/11 remembrance service in the Green Township in 2013. He allegedly shouted that the terrorist attacks had been an inside job, he held a placard stating the same. He was not cited for his actions. John Cornell said that his son often showed sympathy for Muslims who had been killed in the Middle East.