FBI: Idaho Teen Hatched 'Truly Horrific' Pro-ISIS Plot

Alexander Mercurio charged with planning attack on local churches
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 9, 2024 9:54 AM CDT
FBI: To Satiate Bloodlust, Teen Dreamed Up 'Truly Horrific' Plot
This photo taken from court documents allegedly shows Alexander Mercurio posing with a knife in front of an ISIS flag.   (Court documents via Spokesman-Review)

An 18-year-old planned to storm at least one church in Idaho, "killing as many people as possible" in the name of the Islamic State, according to authorities, who say they intervened to stop him just in time. Investigators arrested Alexander Mercurio on Saturday, a day before he intended to put his plan in action at the end of the sacred Muslim month of Ramadan, according to court records. "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 Garland said Monday, per CBS News. Mercurio, who faces up to 20 years in prison on a charge of providing material support to a foreign terrorist group, had plotted something "truly horrific," said FBI Director Christopher Wray, per the Spokesman-Review.

Mercurio allegedly informed an FBI source of his plan to "stop close by the church, equip the weapon[s], and storm the temple, killing as many people as possible," per CBS. The attack was meant to show his support for ISIS but was "partially for the sake of satiating some kind of bloodlust," court documents read, per the Spokesman-Review. Investigators say Mercurio showed an interest in ISIS dating back to 2022. He allegedly posted pro-ISIS material online and claimed to have been in contact with a person later arrested for providing financial support to the terrorist group. In meetings and conversations with the FBI source, Mercurio allegedly claimed he would "donate every last cent in my bank" to ISIS and planned to film a pro-ISIS video message.

On April 3, the FBI source allegedly filmed Mercurio declaring his allegiance to the ISIS leader. "I am going to perform a martyrdom operation very soon," Mercurio wrote in one recent message, according to court documents. "The targets will be the various churches in my town." He allegedly said he aimed to "fix" the problem of "too many churches." He described "three or five" within walking distance of his home, per the Spokesman-Review. He allegedly planned to first attack his father with a metal pipe, then steal his father's guns. He also planned to carry flammable chemicals, according to the documents. Investigators seized a metal pipe, handcuffs, a machete, a folding saw, canisters of butane fuel, and multiple firearms found locked in the father's closet, per CNN and CBS. (More Idaho stories.)

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