PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A man, originally from Syria, is facing terrorism-related charges after police say he was planning to attack a church on Pittsburgh’s North Side.
As the investigation continues, new details continue to emerge about 21-year-old Mustafa Mousab Alowemer.
The Syria native and current Pittsburgh resident came to the United States as a refugee in 2016. He lived in an apartment with his family inside the housing authority neighborhood Northview Heights.
Alowemer attended Brashear High School, an English as Second Language school within the Pittsburgh Public School District.
This is his yearbook photo:
Most high school graduates are around 17 or 18, but Alowemer got his diploma on June 8 — three days after his 21st birthday. State law says that general students and ESL students can stay in school until they’re 21.
Following his arrest, the Pittsburgh Public School District released a statement saying it is cooperating fully with the FBI’s investigation. They released this updated statement on Thursday afternoon:
“While the FBI’s investigation involves a recent graduate of PPS, the investigation centers around a potential terroristic act in the North Side community. The District is cooperating fully with the FBI’s investigation. As this is a federal investigation we have no further comment.
Please note students ESL or not can stay in school until 21 by State law.”
The district also said that counselors will be available at Brashear High School on Monday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. for any students who want to talk about what happened to their fellow classmate.
Those who attended school with Alowemer described him as someone who kept to himself.
“We went to school together, that’s all. He wasn’t like a friend or anything,” said classmate Diyome Mani. “He was just like a quiet person, that was it. He wasn’t a person that was active or talks a lot.”
WATCH: Megan Schiller Talks To The Suspect’s Classmates
In the months leading up to his graduation, the FBI says Alowemer used social media to express his support of ISIS and asked for a weapon with a silencer. He allegedly told an undercover FBI agent he was going to walk up to the Legacy International Worship Center on the North Side with a backpack full of explosives and put the bag on the side of the church.
The suspect allegedly said he would leave an ISIS-affiliated flag with the words “we arrived” near the scene of the attack.
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As federal investigators raided Alowemer’s apartment in Northview Heights Wednesday afternoon, countless neighbors streamed it live on Facebook.
The neighbors say they’re worried about their safety. And they’re upset that no one in the management office addressed what happened Wednesday.
Ron Lee Johnson said he’s mad and now calls his neighborhood a “refugee camp.”
“FBI, ATF, Homeland Security — they all were here. From the corner to the bus stop,” Johnson said. “We’re talking bombings. We’re moving from shootings to bombs — actually suicidal, some of them, maybe.”
Marcus Reed is the president of the Northview Heights Citizen Council. “This is a whole different level of violence for us,” he said.
He said the suspect and his family didn’t fit in with the Northview community.
“Quiet,” Reed recalled. “They mingle more with the African immigrants. They really didn’t mingle with us.”
He said since the raid, he’s spent countless hours on social media and in person trying to calm his neighbor’s nerves. “It’s scary because now we don’t know who is who. Anybody could be a bomber or building bombs.”
Neighbors in Northview Heights admit it’s a tough neighborhood where shootings happen frequently. But everyone who spoke to KDKA’s Meghan Schiller said they’re not going to tolerate bombs or alleged terrorism.
Alowemer is now charged with attempting to provide material support and resources to ISIS and distributing information relating to an explosive or weapon of mass destruction.