FBI Says a ‘Truly Horrific’ Attack Against US Churches Has Been Thwarted, ISIS-Linked Suspect Arrested

FBI Says a ‘Truly Horrific’ Attack Against US Churches Has Been Thwarted, ISIS-Linked Suspect Arrested

An Idaho man has been charged in a plot to attack Christians at church after he pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, according to the U.S. Justice Department.

The DOJ announced in a Monday news release that FBI agents arrested the man on Saturday, thwart an attack he allegedly planned for the next day against churches in northern Idaho.

The suspect in the plot was identified as 18-year-old Alexander Scott Mercurio of the city of Coeur d’Alene.

The city is just miles east of Idaho’s border with Washington and about 25 miles from Spokane.

It has a population of about 55,000.

According to the DOJ, Mercurio planned to use knives and guns and start fires to attack a church in the city on April 7.

The date was selected because it was the Sunday before the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, according to the FBI’s criminal complaint.

The CNN report on Mercurio’s arrest is below:

He was arrested a day before the alleged planned attack and charged with attempting to provide material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization.

The DOJ said in its news release:

“According to the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint, Mercurio pledged his allegiance to ISIS and intended to commit attacks on its behalf. He planned to attack individuals at churches in Coeur d’Alene on April 7 using weapons, including knives, firearms, and fire.”

Mercurio allegedly found himself on the radar of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force and agents worked to arrest him before he could attack a church.

No specific church was named by the DOJ, which stated Mercurio planned to attack Christians in numerous houses of worship on behalf of the terrorist group.

Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement that Mercurio planned a violent killing spree.

“As alleged in the complaint, the defendant swore an oath of loyalty to ISIS and planned to wage an attack in its name on churches in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho,” Garland said.

He added, “Thanks to the investigative efforts of the FBI, the defendant was taken into custody before he could act, and he is now charged with attempting to support ISIS’s mission of terror and violence.”

FBI Director Christopher Wray praised the agents he said thwarted the man’s plans.

“This investigation demonstrates the FBI’s steadfast commitment to work with our law enforcement partners to stop those who wish to commit acts of violence on behalf of – or inspired by – foreign terrorist groups,” Wray stated.

Wray went on to call Mercurio’s alleged plot “truly horrific.”

Meanwhile, Shohini Sinha, special agent in charge of the Salt Lake City FBI field office said the alleged plot should concern Americans.

“This case should be an eye-opener to the dangers of self-radicalization, which is a real threat to our communities,” Sinha said in a statement.

“Protecting the American people from terrorism remains the FBI’s number one priority, and we continue to encourage the public to report anything suspicious to the FBI or your local law enforcement,” added Sinha.

Mercurio faces up to 20 years in prison if he is found guilty of the charge of allegedly attempting to assist ISIS.

The arrest comes months after Wray warned that Americans faced a heightened threat of terror attacks on U.S. soil during last year’s Christmas season.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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