Idaho man planned suicide attack on churches to support ISIS: FBI

Alexander Scott Mercurio
Alexander Scott Mercurio | U.S. Department of Justice

An 18-year-old Idaho man who pledged his support to the Islamic State and planned a suicide attack on churches in Coeur d'Alene has been charged with attempting to provide material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization after his plan was thwarted by federal authorities Saturday.

According to a 48-page complaint released by the U.S. Department of Justice, Alexander Scott Mercurio, who rejected the faith of his Christian parents and adopted the Muslim faith, planned to use explosives, knives and ultimately firearms in his attack on local churches this past Sunday before the end of Ramadan.

Islam's celebrated month of fasting ended on Tuesday.

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

"Mercurio planned to attack the church on April 7, 2024, a date intentionally selected by him so his attack would occur before the end of Ramadan. As the date drew near, MERCURIO devised a plan to incapacitate his father, restrain him using handcuffs, and steal his firearms to use for maximum casualties in his attack."

Investigators with the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force who conducted the investigation said Mercurio purchased items like butane canisters and a metal pipe in planning the attack. He also "made a ba'yah statement, pledging his allegiance to ISIS and stating his intention to die while killing others on behalf of ISIS."

Law enforcement stepped in before Mercurio could cause any harm. The suspect was arrested on Saturday. 

"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."

Special Agent in Charge Shohini Sinha of the Salt Lake City FBI said the case is an example of how people can be self-radicalized.

"This case should be an eye-opener to the dangers of self-radicalization, which is a real threat to our communities," Sinha said. "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 is facing a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison if he is convicted.

Contact: Follow Leonardo Blair on Twitter: @leoblair Follow Leonardo Blair on Facebook: LeoBlairChristianPost

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