A Syrian refugee who came to the U.S. three years ago plotted to bomb a church this spring to inspire followers of the Islamic State of Iraq, federal authorities said in announcing the man’s arrest Wednesday.
A criminal complaint alleges Mustafa Mousab Alowemer planned to bomb an unidentified church on Pittsburgh’s north side, and purchased materials he thought were necessary to build a bomb. He also allegedly provided plans and a map to an undercover FBI agent he thought was a fellow Islamic State supporter.
“Targeting places of worship is beyond the pale, no matter what the motivation,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers said in a statement. “The defendant is alleged to have plotted just such an attack of a church in Pittsburgh in the name of ISIS.
The 21-year-old Alowemer, a Pittsburgh resident, is charged with one count of attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and two counts of distributing information relating to an explosive device or weapon of mass destruction.
Alowemer was born in Daraa, Syria and came to the U.S. as a refugee in 2016, according to the FBI. The federal court docket didn’t list an attorney for Alowemer and the Department of Justice didn’t return a message seeking whether he had an attorney who could comment on the charges announced Wednesday.
According to the criminal complaint, Alowemer met several times between April and June with the undercover FBI agent and an FBI source. During one of the meetings, Alowemer allegedly provided plot details, bomb materials he’d purchased and printed copies of Google satellite maps with markings showing the location of the church plus arrival and escape routes.
Alowemer planned to carry out the bombing next month by delivering the explosives in a backpack, according to the complaint.