Pittsburgh man accused of plotting church attack has Wisconsin connection

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PITTSBURGH/MILWAUKEE, Wis. (WSAW) -- Federal court documents allege that Mustafa Mousab Alowemer, 21, communicated in 2018 with social media accounts attributed to a woman who pleaded guilty earlier this year in Wisconsin to federal charges of attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).

Alowemer, who was arrested Wednesday, is accused of plotting to attack a Christian church in Pittsburgh. He faces one charge of attempting to provide material support to ISIS, and two counts of distributing information relating to an explosive device.

While the woman in the federal affidavit is unnamed, a 46-year-old woman, Waheba Issa Dais from Cudahy, was convicted in April of one count of attempting to provide material support to ISIS. A Department of Justice press release states she hacked Facebook accounts in support of ISIS, tried to recruit ISIS members and encouraged other supporters in attempted plans of attacks—all from her Wisconsin home, U.S. Attorney Matthew D. Krueger said.

She will be sentenced in September, and faces a maximum of 20 years in prison, a maximum of life supervised release and a $250,000 fine, according to the Department of Justice.

Alowemer, a Syrian refugee and Pittsburgh resident, is accused of plotting to bomb Legacy International Worship center, a church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Federal court documents say Alowemer had a detailed plan to attack a Pittsburgh church that he knew would kill multiple people, had bought several supplies to create the bomb and had planned a way for ISIS to take credit for the attack--all in the name of ISIS, inspiring other ISIS sympathizers in the U.S., and seeking 'revenge for [ISIS] brothers in Nigeria.'

He’s accused of distributing multiple documents about making and using explosive and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to an undercover FBI officer, who Alowemer believed to be an ISIS supporter. Alowemer started communicating with the agent in March, who introduced him to another undercover officer pretending to be an ISIS supporter. Alowemer even gifted one of the agents with two rings inscribed with the ISIS insignia.

“Hoping to Allah that he dies in a way that does not require the traditional funeral cleansing and burial rituals" is the translation of an Arabic statement on a social media account the FBI believes belongs to Alowemer. Searches of his online activity and accounts reveal a desire to join ISIS and consumption of ISIS propaganda, according to the affidavit, as well as extensive communication with the undercover officer in which he repeatedly affirmed his loyalty to ISIS.

In communicating with the agent, “Alowemer expressed the hope that destroying the Church with explosives in the name of ISIS would inspire other ISIS ‘brothers’ in the United States to join together and take similar actions,” the court filing reads.