The Department of Justice announced Wednesday afternoon the arrest of a 21-year-old Syrian refugee who was allegedly assisting the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) with a terrorist attack targeting a Pittsburgh Christian Church.
According to authorities, Mustafa Mousab Alowemer is a current resident of Pittsburgh but arrived in the United States from war-torn Syria in August 2016. A press release sent out today by the DOJ alleges that Alowemer used various social media and technological communications to coordinate an ISIS-style attack after pledging his support to the Islamic extremist organization.
Apparently, the suspect believed he was speaking with a member of ISIS when he "distributed propaganda materials, offered to provide potential targets in the Pittsburgh area, requested a weapon with a silencer, and recorded a video of himself pledging an oath of allegiance to the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi."
An "FBI Pittsburgh JTTF investigation...revealed that Alowemer plotted to bomb a church located on the North Side of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (the Church), using a weapon of mass destruction" the DOJ said.
"According to Alowemer, his motivation to detonate a device at the Church was to support the cause of ISIS and to inspire other ISIS supporters in the United States to join together and commit similar acts in the name of ISIS. Alowemer also targeted the Church in order to 'take revenge for our [ISIS] brothers in Nigeria," the press release continued.
Then, as Alowemer moved closed to finalizing his plans, the suspect met four times with an undercover FBI agent between April 16 and June 11.
In person, the alleged ISIS supporter, "provided additional details about the bomb plot and provided the materials he had purchased for construction of the device." He also had "two printed copies of detailed Google satellite maps, which included hand-written markings identifying the Church and routes of arrival and escape. Alowemer also wrote and provided a 10-point handwritten plan outlining details related to his plot to personally deliver explosives in a backpack."
"Targeting places of worship is beyond the pale, no matter what the motivation,” said Assistant Attorney General Demers. “The defendant is alleged to have plotted just such an attack of a church in Pittsburgh in the name of ISIS. The National Security Division and our partners will continue our efforts to identify and bring to justice individuals in our country who seek to commit violence on behalf of ISIS and other terrorist organizations. I want to thank the agents, analysts, and prosecutors who are responsible for this investigation.”
"Court documents show Mustafa Alowemer planned to attack a church in the name of ISIS, which could have killed or injured many people. Fortunately, his plans were foiled by the full force of the FBI Pittsburgh Joint Terrorism Task Force,” Assistant Director McGarrity said in the press release.
This is a breaking news story and will be updated as details come in.