ISIS supporter pleads guilty after plotting to bomb US church in retaliation for ‘brothers’ killed in Nigeria
A Syrian refugee in the US who plotted to bomb a church in Pennsylvania has pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).
Mustafa Mousab Alowemer, 23, who lived in Pittsburgh PA, devised and intended to carry out a deadly attack on a church, the Legacy International Worship Center, in July 2019.”
Alowemer said it was “to take revenge for our [ISIS] brothers in Nigeria.” A splinter Boko Haram group enjoys the backing of the Islamic State.
The group, Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP), has launched several deadly attacks in northeast Nigeria. The government forces have also killed many off its commanders.
“The defendant, motivated by ISIS’s call to violence and hate, plotted a terrorist attack targeting a church in Pittsburgh,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Mark J. Lesko of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.
“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.”
Court documents said Alowemer plotted to bomb the church located on the north side of Pittsburgh using an explosive device.
He is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 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. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors
Alowemer’s 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.
In May 2019, Alowemer distributed multiple instructional documents related to the construction and use of explosives and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to an individual Alowemer believed to be a fellow ISIS supporter, but who was in fact an FBI employee.
Alowemer had 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 around June 2019.
Between April 16 and June 11, Alowemer met four times in person with an FBI Undercover Employee (UCE) and/or an FBI Confidential Human Source (CHS). At the June 11 meeting with the UCE and CHS, Alowemer provided additional details about the bomb plot and provided the materials, including boxes of nails, he had purchased for construction of the device.
He 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.
He expressed a desire to meet one more time to conduct planning and coordination prior to carrying out the attempted bombing in July 2019. That meeting was later scheduled for June 19 in the Pittsburgh area, at which time he was arrested.