A radicalized American Muslim was arrested by the FBI after scouting locations for a Fourth of July terror attack.
By: AP and World Israel News Staff
An American-born citizen who federal authorities say recently scouted locations in Cleveland to attack people watching Fourth of July fireworks and talked of carrying out additional bombings has been charged with trying to support terrorism.
Federal authorities said Monday that Demetrius Pitts, 48, an avowed Muslim who also goes by the name Abdur Raheem Rafeeq, had repeatedly expressed his support for Al-Qaeda for more than a year and talked about setting off bombs at a July 4 parade and later in his hometown of Philadelphia.
Pitts, of Maple Heights, was due in federal court Monday in Cleveland. There were no court documents listing an attorney for him.
He was arrested Sunday after meeting an undercover agent and charged with attempted support of a terrorist organization.
FBI Special Agent Stephen Anthony said it was not clear how close Pitts was to carrying out his threats, but he said authorities couldn’t sit back and wait to find out.
Authorities first began watching Pitts in December of 2015 when a Facebook profile belonging to “Abdur Raheem Rafeeq” sent an expletive-laced private message to a political commentary program stating, “The USA will be destroy. Allahu Akbar,” the New York Daily News reported.
In January 2017, Pitts used the same Facebook account to comment on jihad training camp images, declaring, “We as Muslim need to start. Training like this everyday. We need to known how to shoot guns. Throw hand grenades hand to hand combat. … If you fear death. Then don’t say you love Islam. … We should always be prepared to fight in the name of Allah Akbar. All cowards stay home. Walsalaam. Abdur Raheem sahl Rafeeq. Allahu Akbar Allahu Akbar Allahu Akbar,” according to the criminal complaint.
He later began meeting with an undercover agent and discussed several different ways to carry out an attack, according to court documents. Pitts also talked about his hatred for the U.S. military, Anthony said.
An undercover agent in late June gave Pitts a bus pass and cellphone that he thought were from Al-Qaeda supporters so that he could go downtown and look for locations to carry out his attacks, according to a complaint filed by authorities.
Pitts shot videos of potential targets such as a federal building and U.S. Coast Guard station and then turned over the phone last week, believing the photos and videos would be given to Al-Qaeda members, the document said.
In recent weeks, Pitts also talked about wanting to travel to Philadelphia, and on Sunday told the undercover agent he wanted to conduct reconnaissance for a future attack using a truck packed with explosives, similar to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, authorities said in the complaint.
Anthony said Pitts had been radicalized in the U.S. and that he had no information that Pitts had traveled out of the country.