Aug. 14 (UPI) — A 17-year-old Philadelphia youth has been charged in connection with a planned “catastrophic” terrorist attack by Islamic extremists that was thwarted by investigators, authorities announced Monday.
The teen was arrested by FBI SWAT officers at his residence in the Wynnefield section of Philadelphia on Friday and now faces a range of counts including charges related to weapons of mass destruction, according to Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner.
The juvenile is also facing charges of criminal conspiracy, arson, causing/risking catastrophe and attempt to commit criminal mischief, the DA said in a statement.
“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. “We intend to pursue full accountability for these crimes and will continue to work vigilantly with our law enforcement partners to protect all of our communities from hateful, ideologically driven acts of violence.”
“Protecting the United States from terrorist attacks is the FBI’s number one priority, and I think it’s very fair to say that lives were saved because of this investigation,” added FBI Special Agent in Charge Jacqueline Maguire.
The exact nature of the alleged planned terror attack was not disclosed in the statement, but the teen is accused of having been in contact with “global terrorists,” including Syria-based Katibat al Tawhid wal Jihad, or KTJ, who last year was named by the U.S. State Department as a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” with links to al-Qaida.
The U.S. holds KTJ responsible for carrying out a subway attack in St. Petersburg, Russia, in April 2017, which killed 14 passengers and injured 50 others, as well as a suicide car bombing of the Chinese embassy in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, in August 2016, which wounded three people.
Krasner said the Philadelphia suspect contacted KTJ through an Instagram account and is alleged to have received messages related to construction of improvised explosive devises.
Further, authorities said, the juvenile “purchased materials online such as chemical cleaners that are used to construct IEDs, as well as outdoor or tactical gear.”
Customs agents recorded 14 international shipments of military and tactical gear to the juvenile’s address, they said.