Mustafa Mousab Alowemer, 23, of Pittsburgh, pleaded guilty on Thursday to one count of attempting to provide material support to ISIS in relation to his plan to attack Legacy International Worship Center located at 2131 Wilson Ave in Pittsburgh in 2019, according to the US Department of Justice.
Alowemer came to the US as a refugee escaping the Syrian Civil War on Aug. 1, 2016.
He lived in an apartment in Northview Heights, Pittsburgh with his parents and siblings. He graduated from Brashear High School, an English as Second Language school within the Pittsburgh Public School District.
He pledged his allegiance to leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and started planning an attack on one of several locations around Pittsburgh, a Shia mosque and US servicemen before choosing the non-denominational Christian Legacy International Worship Center.
He contacted a woman who also pledged to be ISIS supporter in 2018.
Waheba Issa Dais, 46, of Cudahy, allegedly shared information on social media about how to make explosives and biological weapons.
The Dais later pleaded guilty in providing material support to ISIS in federal court in Eastern Wisconsin in 2019, according to the US DOJ.
She is currently serving seven and a half years in federal prison.
Leading up to Alowemer's arrest, he met four times in person with an Federal Bureau of Investigation Undercover Employee (UCE) and/or an FBI Confidential Human Source (CHS), between April 16 and June 11.
During one of those meetings Alowemer provided additional details about the bomb plot and the materials he planned to use, including boxes of nails. He also shared that he had printed copies of detailed Google satellite maps, which included hand-written markings identifying the church and routes of arrival and escape.
Alowemer showed the undercover agents a 10-point handwritten plan outlining details related to his plot to personally deliver explosives in a backpack.
He was aware that numerous people in the proximity of the church could be killed by the explosion, according to the FBI.
Alowemer expressed a desire to meet one more time to conduct planning and coordination prior to carrying out the attempted bombing in July 2019.
The meeting was later scheduled for June 19 in the Pittsburgh area, at which time Alowemer was arrested.
“The guilty plea today by Mustafa Alowemer leaves no question about his intention to commit an act of terrorism against a place of worship,” said Special Agent in Charge Mike Nordwall of the FBI’s Pittsburgh Field Office.
“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.”
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.
Pending sentencing, the court ordered that Alowemer remain detained in the custody of the U.S. Marshals.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Soo C. Song of the Western District of Pennsylvania and Trial Attorney Brenda Sue Thornton of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section are prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.
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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