PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The arrest of Mustafa Alowemer, a 21-year-old Syrian refugee that was a Pittsburgh resident, puts Mayor Peduto square in the middle of a heated immigration debate.
“Immigrants built this country and we are a country that’s welcoming,” he said. “The City of Pittsburgh takes pride in the fact that we are a city that’s open. I think that once you start getting rid of America being a welcoming country, you start to get rid of what America is based upon.”
Alowemer is part of a growing international community in the Northview Heights Estates, where immigrants from Africa and the Middle East have been resettled as part of the mayor’s effort to make more welcoming to people from around the world.
Working with the city housing authority, resettlement agencies offer English as a second language and a variety of social services to help immigrants assimilate, but Peduto says they’re all documented and legal.
“It doesn’t make me reconsider it [the open city policy], this country was built by immigrants and refugees,” he said. “All of the residents, including the suspect were vetted. They went through the process, they went through the legal hurdles in order to come into this country.
The FBI believes that Alowemer was a lone wolf, acting along without accomplices or foreign entity directing him. However, an FBI agent posing as an ISIS sympathizer befriended Alowemer after he had caught the attention of authorities by posting his allegiance to ISIS on social media. The agent and an informant learned of his plans to bomb ISIS enemies.
According to the criminal complaint, Alowemer initially planned to target a mosque on the North Side but became concerned about its proximity to the police station and its security measures.
“Thank goodness we have folks like the FBI here in Pittsburgh and the U.S. Attorney’s Office that monitor and are watching to protect us,” Mayor Peduto said. “There is no evidence at all to say this is a cell or to say he was associated with anyone else. It seems to be a lone wolf incident.”