The FBI arrested a Syrian refugee Wednesday who had plans to bomb an unidentified Christian church in north Pittsburgh in July to “take revenge” for his Islamic State “brothers in Nigeria.”
The refugee, 21-year-old Mustafa Mousab Alowemer, had resided in Pittsburgh since his request for asylum in the United States was granted in early 2016, Fox News reported.
Alowemer was first suspected earlier this year when the FBI found that he had been in contact with another local supporter of the Islamic State under bureau investigation.
He later met with an undercover FBI agent and an FBI source who claimed to be Islamic State sympathizers a number of times throughout April 16 and June 11, according to a statement from the Department of Justice.
“Syrian Man Arrested on Terrorism Charges after Planning Attack on Christian Church in Pittsburgh: Complaint alleges Syrian man plotted attacks in the name of ISIS,” FBI Pittsburgh wrote in a tweet accompanying the statement.
Syrian Man Arrested on Terrorism Charges after Planning Attack on Christian Church in Pittsburgh: Complaint alleges Syrian man plotted attacks in the name of ISIS. The arrest was done by #FBI Pittsburgh’s JTTF. SAC Jones issued the statement below.https://t.co/StP3mss9d1 pic.twitter.com/IKgMlhkSDf
— FBI Pittsburgh (@FBIPittsburgh) June 20, 2019
During his meetings and correspondences with the FBI, Alowemer revealed not only a videotaped profession of support for the Islamic State but also extensive plans to commit his act of terror at the north Pittsburgh church.
These plans included materials already purchased for the improvised explosives as well as two Google satellite photos of the bombing location — complete with a hand-made notation of plausible arrival and escape routes.
Pittsburgh’s Joint Terrorism Task Force carried out the arrest Wednesday. Alowemer has been charged with “one count of attempting to provide material support and resources to the Islamic State” and “two counts of distributing information relating to an explosive, destructive device, or weapon of mass destruction,” according to the DOJ statement.
“The FBI takes threats to churches and other religious institutions extremely seriously and will use all our resources to stop potential terrorist attacks against them,” Assistant Director of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division Michael McGarrity said in the DOJ statement.
“Targeting places of worship is beyond the pale, no matter what the motivation,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers added, assuring that law enforcement and investigative teams in Pittsburgh would remain vigilant in light of the arrest.
Alowemer was “admitted to the United States as a refugee on Aug. 1, 2016,” under the Obama administration, according to the DOJ statement.
President Barack Obama was a strong proponent of expanding the U.S. asylum program as Syria’s Civil War began, despite reports from the intelligence community and other departments that the U.S. did not have the resources to properly vet the Syrian refugees.
Obama and various leaders at the United Nations were vehement that Syria’s refugees were predominantly women, children and the elderly, and that the risk of radicalization among the community was low.
According to research from The Heritage Foundation, however, 44 Syrian refugees were involved in 32 terrorist incidents in Europe between January 2014 and June 2018 — killing 182 and wounding 814.
Citing these European incidents, President Donald Trump took a harsh stance on America’s refugee programs early on, capping admittance at 30,000 in 2018 according to The New York Times.
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