The FBI and Philadelphia law enforcement officials announced a case Monday afternoon against a 17-year-old who they say was a supporter of Islamic extremists, was allegedly radicalized online and had purchased materials that could be used to make bombs.
“The work of the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force potentially thwarted a catastrophic terrorist attack in the name of a perverted ideology that in no way, shape, or form represents the beliefs of the overwhelming majority of peace-seeking people of faith, including Muslims,” Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner said in a statement.
The DA’s office said the juvenile faces charges of possessing weapons of mass destruction, criminal conspiracy, arson, causing/risking catastrophe, attempting to commit criminal mischief, possession of an instrument of crime and recklessly endangering another person.
“The charges we have filed against this individual represent the most serious alleged terrorist activity prosecuted in Philadelphia County court in recent history," Krasner said.
A law enforcement official said that the DA’s office will attempt to try the juvenile as an adult but that the case would not go to federal court because of the suspect’s age. The 17-year-old is from a Muslim family, the official said; there were no indications that members of his family were involved in or aware of his alleged plans.
The suspect had been buying materials online and selecting potential targets, the official said.
Krasner and Jacqueline Maguire, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia field office, held a news conference Monday about a terrorism investigation that led to an arrest in West Philadelphia.
Maguire said the teenager had access to a “significant” number of firearms and had bought materials to help construct an improvised explosive device.
He had conducted “general research” into specific targets, not only in the Philadelphia area, Maguire added.
The suspect, whom the two officials declined to name, was in communication with Katibat al Tawhid wal Jihad, an Al Qaeda-affiliated group the U.S. designated as a foreign terrorist organization last year, they said. He was arrested Friday, they said.