PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A young man suspected of plotting a terrorist attack stood before a judge Friday morning inside Pittsburgh’s federal courthouse.
Wearing an orange jumpsuit and slender in stature, Syrian refugee and recent Brashear high school graduate 21-year-old Mustafa Alowemer, entered the courtroom. He sat between his defense attorneys and a contracted translator.
He briefly talked with his defense attorney Sam Saylor and then sat down next to a government-contracted interpreter.
In court Friday, Judge Cynthia Eddy ruled that the government presented enough evidence for his case to go to trial. She also decided he’ll remain behind bars without bail.
Assistant United States Attorney Soo Song called just one witness to the stand- FBI Special Agent Gary Morgan. He works with the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.
He testified to the months-long investigation into Alowemer and his five meetings with undercover FBI employees who he believed to be supporters of ISIS.
In those meetings, the FBI says Alowemer carefully finalized his plans to buy bomb-making supplies such as nails, 9-volt batteries, acetone, and ice packs.
Special Agent Morgan said he’s not a bomb expert and doesn’t specialize in bomb materials.
Morgan said the FBI first became aware of Alowemer after he allegedly used his mother’s computer to access ISIS supporter sites on the dark web. Morgan said they’ve tracked him ever since – even his mundane day to day actions inside his North Side neighborhood Northview Heights.
U.S. Attorney Song told the judge that Alowemer slowly fine-tuned his plan of attack. She said he wrote his intentions online, and then handwrote those plans, including a 10-point guide where he placed X’s and checkmarks as he worked through the list.
She said he plotted, researched and then scouted out his target: The Legacy International Worship Center on the North Side.
Attorney Song played a video for the courtroom of Alowemer wearing a mask and allegedly pledging his allegiance to ISIS. He also reportedly sent a video to the undercover FBI employees showing a bomb successfully exploding and blowing up several buildings.
Ultimately, the judge decided the government presented enough evidence.
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Meanwhile, Alowemer’s defense attorney said his client is just a young man engaged in “puffery” and “bragging.” He also said that buying those items at a convenience or hardware store, including acetone and nails and batteries, does not constitute a plan. He said he didn’t think anyone could “make a bomb out of those four things.”
After the hearing, the FBI and Pittsburgh Police addressed the media.
“Once again we see a peaceful congregation of worshippers targeted simply because of their faith,” said Bob Jones, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Pittsburgh.
“As the City of Pittsburgh learned all too painfully last year, hate in any form must never be permitted to thrive,” said Chief Scott Schubert, Pittsburgh Bureau of Police.