Pittsburgh Syrian refugee pleads guilty in church bomb plot

Regional News

PITTSBURGH (AP) — A Syrian refugee accused of plotting to bomb a Christian church in Pittsburgh and who was inspired by the Islamic State group pleaded guilty to a federal charge on Thursday and awaits sentencing.

Pittsburgh resident Mustafa Mousab Alowemer, 23, entered the plea to attempting to provide material support and resources to the Islamic Stage group, a militant extremist organization.

Authorities have said he had detailed plans in 2019 to bomb the Legacy International Worship Center, a small Christian church on the city’s North Side.

Federal prosecutors said at the plea hearing that he talked about potentially planting a second explosive device, timing the detonation to coincide with when first responders would begin to arrive, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported.

Defense attorney Andrew Lipson told the judge that Alowemer did not agree with the prosecution’s allegation that he had plotted a second attack, the paper said.

“That truly was not his intention or desire,” Lipson said.

In a release, the U.S. attorney’s office said Alowemer wanted to inspire other U.S. supporters of the Islamic State group to conduct similar actions.

Alowemer gave someone he thought was a fellow IS supporter instructions about how to build and use explosives in May 2019, but that person was in fact with the FBI, prosecutors said. A month later, they said, he purchased nails and nail polish remover to build an explosive device, they said.

In a June 2019 meeting with an FBI agent and an FBI confidential source, Alowemer gave them maps with arrival and escape routes, and a handwritten, 10-point plan about how he would deliver the explosives in a backpack. He was arrested about a week later.

He faces up to 20 years in prison at sentencing in January and remains in federal custody. Authorities say Alowemer was born in Syria and came to the United States in 2016.

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