A Syrian Refugee Is Accused Of Plotting To Bomb A Pennsylvania Church

Mustafa Mousab Alowemer allegedly pledged allegiance to ISIS.

a church steeple and cross against the setting sun
Cristie Guevara / Needpix

Mustafa Mousab Alowemer allegedly pledged allegiance to ISIS.

A Syrian refugee is accused of concocting a plot to bomb a Pittsburgh church, NBC News reports.

Mustafa Mousab Alowemer, 21, came to the U.S. as a refugee from war-torn Syria in 2016. A teenager at the time, Alowemer enrolled in high school and graduated. However, he does not have a U.S. passport and is not a permanent U.S. resident.

At some point, Alowemer made contact with a man whom the F.B.I. was already watching due to suspected terrorist ties, and authorities began monitoring him as well. Around the same time, Alowemer posted a message on a “jihadist-oriented message board,” although the content of that message, and the name of the message board, has not been revealed. It was at that point that investigators took a particular interest in the Syrian man.

Later, although it’s not clear when, Alowemer allegedly recorded a video of himself pledging loyalty to the leader of ISIS.

An undercover F.B.I. agent, posing as a fellow jihadist, made contact with Alowemer, and the two allegedly began cooking up a plot to bomb a Pittsburgh church.

Specifically, authorities say, Alowemer allegedly provided his contact with Google Maps data about Legacy International Worship Center, as well as information about possible arrival and escape routes.

He also allegedly sent two bomb-making instruction manuals — a “Beginners Course for Young Mujahedeen” and “The Extraction of Potassium Nitrate from Goat Manure and Other Methods” — to his contact. However, he never actually obtained any bomb-making materials, instead allegedly believing that his associates would construct the bombs.

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Authorities say that Alowemer intended to bomb the church in the middle of the night, when no worshipers would be present, possibly in July. Why he allegedly wanted to bomb the church when no one would be there, and why he allegedly targeted that particular church, remains unclear.

On Wednesday, Alowemer was arrested and charged with one count of attempting to provide material support to ISIS and two counts of distributing information about making bombs. It remains unclear, as of this writing, when he will appear in court.

Neighbors tell the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that Alowemer and other Syrians in their neighborhood largely kept to themselves, speaking only to other Syrians. Marcus Reed, president of the tenant council in the neighborhood where he and Alowemer lived, said that the family was “neighborly,” and that, other than Alowemer and other young Syrian men walking aimlessly about in the wee hours of the morning, they never noticed anything particularly unusual or noteworthy about them.

“They really didn’t interact with us,” he said.