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Christopher Cornell profile: The Ohio man who tried to 'wage jihad' and allegedly plotted to bomb Washington DC

The 20 year old Islamic-state supporter, who tweeted under the name Raheel Mahrus Ubaydah, was arrested for planning an attack on the Capitol building in Washington DC by the FBI

Helen Nianias
Friday 16 January 2015 14:36 GMT
Christopher Cornell is accused of expressing his support for 'jihad' on Twitter accounts under the alias 'Raheel Mahrus Ubaydah'
Christopher Cornell is accused of expressing his support for 'jihad' on Twitter accounts under the alias 'Raheel Mahrus Ubaydah' (Reuters)

Apprehended on allegations of planning to detonate a pipe bomb in the Capitol, then open fire on fleeing government officials, Christopher Cornell has been described as "a good kid" and "lost" by his parents. He's currently being held in solitary confinement in Butler County Jail without bail.

Here's everything you need to know about the man at the heart of the latest alleged US terror plots.

Cornell was arrested after buying guns

The FBI said that Cornell bought two M-15 semi-automatic rifles and 600 rounds of ammunition as part of his plan to go to Washington. He bought the weapons at 11am on Wednesday 14 January from Point Blank & Range Gun Shop, and was promptly arrested in the shop’s car park by the Joint Terrorism Task Force. Reports say that Cornell was tackled him to the ground, and ended up face down in asphalt. He was later charged with attempted killing of US government officers and possession of firearms in furtherance of an attempted crime of violence.

John Dean, the gun shop manager, told the Cincinnati Enquirer that Cornell was calm, but didn't seem to know very much about guns. "He was not a menacing individual. He was not aggressive," Dean said. "There really wasn't anything to be afraid of that I could see."

His parents passionately believe he's been framed

John Cornell, Christopher's father, maintains that his son only had $1,200 (£789) and would simply not have been able to afford to buy the firearms. "These guns cost almost $2,000. Where did that money come from? Well, it came from the FBI," Cornell said. "They set him up."

He told NBC News: "I know for a fact he didn’t have [the money], because we counted his money just the other night."

Christopher Lee Cornell's father John believes his son was vulnerable and has been set up by the FBI
Christopher Lee Cornell's father John believes his son was vulnerable and has been set up by the FBI (NBC News)

Cornell Jnr was in contact with FBI informants posing as Islamists over Twitter, where he posted under the name Raheel Mahrus Ubaydah, and reportedly expressed support for Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). "I believe that we should just wage jihad under our own orders and plan attacks and everything," Cornell allegedly wrote in August 2014. "I believe we should meet up and make our own group in alliance with the Islamic State here and plan operations ourselves."

In direct messages to an undercover FBI informant, Cornell apparently said that he did not have support to conduct an attack on behalf of any group, that Middle Eastern terrorists approved of his alleged plans. "We already got a thumbs up from the Brothers over there and Anwar al Awlaki before his martyrdom and many others," he is said to have written.

Cornell met with an informant in Cincinnati over two days in October, and another two days in November, and during the second encounter, the FBI say Cornell told the informant of his plan to bomb the Capitol building in the heart of US government.

"He told me he had went to a mosque and now I know, in hindsight I know, he was meeting with an FBI agent. And they were taking him somewhere, and they were filling his head with a lot of this garbage." Cornell's father told ABC News.

He's been described as "vulnerable" and a "mommy's boy"

Cornell doesn't have many friends and spent much of his time in his flat in rural Cincinnati, where he lives with his parents and his beloved cat, Mikey. His father believes that Cornell's strict religious convictions might have alienated people. Cornell does not support gay marriage, for instance, according to his father. In 2013, it is reported that Cornell held up a sign saying "9/11 was in inside job" at a Green Township remembrance day in a park, according to Police Chief Bart West.

His parents say that Cornell prefers to stay in and cook, while his local community describe him as shy and socially awkward. Neighbour Sue Rowin told the Cincinnati Enquirer: "He would have been easily drawn in, probably by anyone."

Single Cornell did have a girlfriend, but his father says "she was just using him", and the relationship ended.

Still living with his parents, Cornell hadn't decided what he wanted to do for a job, and hadn’t decided on a career goal since graduating from Oak Hills High School in 2012. He did have a seasonal job unloading trucks and stacking shelves for a store chain, however.

Nobody from the Muslim community can identify him

Local mosques don’t appear to recognise him. His father says Cornell attends Masjid Abubakr Siddique, a very small mosque nearby, nobody from the centre has recognised him so far.

While in prison, Sheriff Richard Jones says he speaks in a Middle Eastern accent, and has requested a clock, so he can pray at the right times throughout the day, as well as something to kneel on.

Cornell faced Islamophobic abuse

"We always see the looks people give my son," Cornell's father said. "One time, he was just walking across the street to the store and people driving by threw [objects] at him. Hey, that's my son and I love him just the same."

His parents are standing by him

Cornell's mother, Angela Carmen, said: "I’m just heartbroken. I just love my son. I’ll do anything in the world for him, and I’ll be right by his side."

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