A Philadelphia teenager was charged for allegedly plotting a “catastrophic terrorist attack” after FBI officials found the teenager had been communicating with Al-Qaeda.
Jacqueline Maguire, the FBI special agent in charge of the Philadelphia Field Office, said during a press conference on Monday the unnamed suspect was arrested on state charges on Friday, according to WPVI. The teenager, 17, was described as being an “aspiring terrorist.”
The teenager had allegedly been talking with Katibat al Tawhid wal Jihad (KTJ), an affiliate group of al-Qaida, that was designated as a terrorist group in 2022.
KTJ operates primarily in Syria and is believed to be responsible for the attacks St. Petersburg, Russia, in 2017, and the 2016 metro and suicide car bombing at the Chinese Embassy in Bishkek, Kyrgystan, according to a press release from the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office.
“The young man who is under arrest is – was an aspiring terrorist who was not merely thinking but was doing things that are deeply disturbing and presented a grave danger to everyone,” Larry Krasner, the Philadelphia District Attorney, said during the press conference.
Today, #FBIPhilly SAC Maguire and DA Krasner announced the arrest of a 17-year-old city resident charged in connection with a federal terrorism investigation. Learn more about the case and the charges filed via @philadao: https://t.co/VYPGHrIsk4 pic.twitter.com/HCXqo10AcB
— FBI Philadelphia (@FBIPhiladelphia) August 14, 2023
Officials from the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force became aware the teenager had been communicating with KTJ through his Instagram account between March and April 2023, according to the press release.
During this time, the teenager allegedly received instruction from KTJ on how to construct improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and was observed purchasing materials that are used to “construct IEDs, as well as outdoor or tactical gear,” according to the press release.
On Aug. 7, agents from the FBI saw the teenager “purchasing materials that can be used to make IEDs” and even recovered items from his trash that could be used to make IEDs, according to the press release.
Following this incident, a warrant for the teenager’s arrest was received on Friday and the teenager was taken into custody, according to the press release.
“Protecting the United States from terrorist attacks is the FBI’s number one priority,” Maguire said in the press release. “I think it’s very fair to say that lives were saved because of this investigation. Investigations like this one – with the amazing work that continues and the successful mitigation of such a significant threat – are exactly why we do what we do, and yet another reminder of what a privilege it is to serve with such dedicated colleagues.”
The teenager is currently facing charges related to weapons of mass destruction, criminal conspiracy, arson, causing/risking catastrophe, attempt to commit criminal mischief, reckless endangerment of other people, and possessing an instrument of crime, according to the press release.
Though the case is currently filed in juvenile court, the DA’s office is seeking to move it to adult court, Krasner said.
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