Feds arrest Idaho teen for ‘violent plot’ to attack churches for ISIS

Federal authorities have arrested an Idaho teenager for allegedly plotting to massacre Christian churchgoers during worship in the name of Islamic State terrorists.

18-year-old Alexander Scott Mercurio of Coeur d’Alene was taken into custody on Saturday after an FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force investigation, a day before he planned to carry out a  “truly horrific” and “violent plot” to attack churches on behalf of ISIS.

Mercurio faces a federal charge of attempting to provide material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization for what the feds say was a plan to  “incapacitate his father, restrain him using handcuffs, and steal his firearms to use for maximum casualties” in the attack which was slated for April 7 in the scenic resort city about 30 miles east of Spokane, WA.

(Video: YouTube/KREM)

“The defendant allegedly pledged loyalty to ISIS and sought to attack people attending churches in Idaho, a truly horrific plan which was detected and thwarted by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a statement. “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.”

According to a criminal complaint, the FBI said its investigation began when the young man “reached out to confidential human sources online and indicated his support for ISIS and terrorist organizations, more generally.”

“Mercurio spread ISIS propaganda online and solicited ISIS’s involvement in and approval of his propaganda efforts, discussed traveling from the United States to join ISIS, [and] considered and planned ways to support ISIS financially,” an investigator for the FBI wrote.

“His attack plan involved using flame-covered weapons, explosives, knives, a machete, a pipe and ultimately firearms,” the investigator said. “His plan grew more precise as he eventually identified the specific church and date on which he planned to attack.”

Mercurio also “made a ba’yah statement, pledging his allegiance to ISIS and stating his intention to die while killing others on behalf of ISIS,” according to the complaint.

“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,” Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said in a statement. “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. The Justice Department will continue to relentlessly pursue, disrupt, and hold accountable those who would commit acts of terrorism against the people and interests of the United States.”

“This case should be an eye-opener to the dangers of self-radicalization, which is a real threat to our communities,” said Special Agent in Charge Shohini Sinha of the Salt Lake City FBI, according to a DOJ 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.”

Mercurio could face a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison if convicted.

Chris Donaldson


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