Syrian refugee pleads guilty to supporting ISIS with plot to bomb church in Pittsburgh


PITTSBURGH, PA – A Syrian refugee living in Pennsylvania pleaded guilty Thursday to one count of attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq (ISIS) and al-Sham, a designated foreign terrorist organization, related to his plot to bomb a Christian church in Pittsburgh.

On Thursday, 23-year-old Mustafa Mousab Alowemer, who came to the United States in August 2016 as a refugee from Syria, pleaded guilty to one count of providing material support to ISIS.

He sought to bomb the Legacy International Worship Center in Pittsburgh sometime in 2019.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Mark Lesk, assigned to the Justice Department’s National Security Division, issued a statement following the guilty plea:

“The defendant, motivated by ISIS’s call to violence and hate, plotted a terrorist attack targeting a church in Pittsburgh. With today’s guilty plea, he will be held accountable for his crimes.

“The Department of Justice is committed to identifying, disrupting, and holding accountable individuals who seek to engage in such attacks. I commend the agents, analysts and prosecutors who identified the threat posed by this defendant and took action to protect the public from his plans.”

Acting U.S. Attorney Stephen R. Kaufman for the Western District of Pennsylvania said that investigators working for the FBI and other agencies helped prevent an unfolding tragedy:

“Inspired by ISIS, Mustafa Alowemer devised and intended to carry out a deadly attack on a house of worship and its congregation.

“If not for the tireless, multi-faceted investigation by the FBI and our partner agencies, the true depth of his determination to commit violence in the name of ISIS may not have been exposed until his deadly plans were achieved.”

According to court documents, Alowemer plotted to bomb a church located on the north side of Pittsburgh using an explosive device. His stated motivation to conduct such an attack 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 to “take revenge for our (ISIS) brothers in Nigeria.” Alowemer was aware that numerous people in the proximity of the church could be killed by the explosion.

Alowemer was exposed and captured during a massive and complex investigation and sting operation led by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.

In May 2019, Alowemer distributed multiple instructional documents related to the construction and use of explosives and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to an individual he believed to be a fellow ISIS supporter, but who was in fact an FBI employee.

The Department of Justice said:

“In or around June 2019, Alowemer purchased several items, including nails and acetone (nail polish remover) with the belief that they were necessary to assemble a destructive device and with the intention they be used to construct the explosives that would be detonated in the vicinity of the church.”

During a June 1, 2019, meeting with co-conspirators, who were undercover FBI agents, Alowemer provided additional details about the bomb plot and provided the materials, including boxes of nails, he had purchased for construction of the device, according to the DOJ.

Alowemer provided 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.

Alowemer expressed a desire to meet once more to conduct planning and coordination prior to carrying out the attempted bombing in July 2019.

Alowemer was arrested after agreeing to another meeting with his “co-conspirators” on June 19, 2019.

Prior to sentencing, the judge ordered Alowemer held in federal custody. Sentencing is scheduled for January 26, 2022.

He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison, a fine of $250,000.00, or both, and a lifetime term of supervised release.

The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force members who were directly involved in this investigation include: FBI, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), IRS – Criminal Investigation, U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Pennsylvania State Police, Allegheny County Police Department, Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, Allegheny County Port Authority Police, Allegheny County Probation, University of Pittsburgh Police Department and UPMC Police Security.

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ISIS-inspired extremist killed after mass stabbing terror attack leaves six people wounded

September 4, 2021


AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND – A man who authorities say was a supporter of ISIS stabbed and wounded six people at a store in Auckland before he was fatally shot by responding police.

The New Zealand Prime Minister confirmed that the deceased suspect had been on the radar of law enforcement for roughly five years as a possible terroristic threat before the attack was carried out.

According to reports, the terror attack happened on September 3rd at a supermarket in Auckland, when a man only identified as a Sri Lankan national had removed a knife from a display case inside of the store and began stabbing shoppers.

Police reportedly responded quickly, fatally shooting the suspect within 60 seconds of the attack being launched inside of the store.

Video captured inside of the store during the police response appears to have captured the audio of when the suspect was fatally shot by police.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern condemned the attack, highlighting that the incident was caused primarily by the attacker’s adoption of an extremist ideology:

“What happened today was despicable.  It was hateful, it was wrong. It was carried out by an individual, not a faith, not a culture, not an ethnicity.  But an individual person who was gripped by ideology that is not supported here.”

Prime Minister Ardern also confirmed that the unnamed suspect had been on the radar of authorities since 2016 as being a possible terror risk. He had settled into New Zealand back in 2011 and was even arrested in 2020 under suspicion of possibly planning a terror attack.

However, a judge later cleared the suspect and Prime Minister Ardern said that they were no longer allowed to keep the suspect in custody at that time.

Kate Hannah, an extremism research fellow at Auckland University, commented on the case and the suspect’s reported extreme ideology, noting that much of this radicalization is now occurring online:

“This person most likely has been in that kind of echo chamber for a period of time.  He first came to government attention in 2016 and so obviously, potentially, since then has been exposed to this kind of material that has caused him to go down this path.”

New Zealand Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said that the deceased suspect appears to have operated as a lone actor in the attack that transpired.

Prime Minister Ardern was faced with questions on whether the attack may have been a sort of retribution for the 2019 Christchurch mosque shootings where a white supremacist gunned down 51 people between two mosques.

The Prime Minister said it’s not clear whether that influenced the incident from September 3rd.

Prime Minister Ardern could not publicly release the name of the deceased terror suspect, noting that previous suppression orders currently prevent officials from releasing certain information about the individual.



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