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Pennsylvania man pleads guilty to trying to provide material support to ISIS

Mustafa Mousab Alowemer, 23, of Pittsburgh, admitted to plotting a terrorist attack targeting a church in Pittsburgh, the Department of Justice said.
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PITTSBURGH — A Pennsylvania man pleaded guilty Thursday to one count of attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, a designated foreign terrorist organization.

Mustafa Mousab Alowemer, 23, of Pittsburgh, pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to provide material support to ISIS in relation to his plan to attack a church in Pittsburgh, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a press release.

“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.”

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, the Dept. of Justice said.

 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, according to the Dept. of Justice.

In furtherance of the plot to bomb the church, in May 2019, Alowemer distributed multiple instructional documents related to the construction and use of explosives and improvised explosive devices to an individual Alowemer believed to be a fellow ISIS supporter, but who was in fact an FBI employee, according to the department. 

Alowemer distributed these documents with the intent that the information be used in the assembly of a destructive device and in furtherance of conducting an attack in support of ISIS, the department 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, according to the department.

Between April 16 and June 11, Alowemer met four times in person with an FBI Undercover Employee and/or an FBI Confidential Human Source, the department said. 

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, according to the department. 

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, the department said. 

Alowemer 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 Alowemer was arrested, according to the department.

Alowemer 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.

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