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World News | Florida man admits supporting IS extremist group

World News | Florida man admits supporting IS extremist group

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ST. PETERSBURG (USA) Feb. 24 (AP) — A Florida man charged with planning terrorist attacks in the United States in 2020 and obtaining an arsenal of weapons has pleaded guilty to trying to provide material support to the Islamic State extremist group.

U.S. citizen Mohammed Al-Azhari, 25, also agreed to an 18-year sentence during a plea hearing before U.S. Magistrate Anthony Porcelli in Tampa federal court on Thursday.

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A formal sentencing date has yet to be set.

Al-Azhari admitted in court documents that he scouted out potential terrorist targets in the Tampa Bay area, sought to acquire multiple weapons and pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.

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The FBI documented numerous conversations between Al-Azhari and classified or undercover sources in which he discussed avenging jailed ISIS fighters and using violence to oppose U.S. military operations in the Middle East.

Al-Azhari was recorded as expressing admiration for the late gunman Omar Mateen in the 2016 Orlando Pulse nightclub massacre, even driving there to scout the location, an FBI affidavit said. In a conversation with a confidential informant, Al-Azhari said, “Honestly, that’s how I want to die,” the FBI said.

The informant then asked Al-Azhari how many people he wanted to kill.

“I don’t want to take four or five, no. I’m going to take at least 50,” Al-Azhari replied in the recording, according to the affidavit.

“You know, Orlando’s brother, Omar Mateen, did it. He took 49 of them.”

Confidential FBI informants eventually provided Al-Azhari with a Glock pistol and a silencer at his request.

He was arrested in May 2020 after possessing the weapons.

Investigators also seized three firearms, a crossbow, dozens of rounds of ammunition, a stun gun and at least six knives belonging to Azhari.

He also tried unsuccessfully to purchase a fully automatic AK-47 style weapon.

According to the affidavit, Al-Azhari conducted reconnaissance of several potential Tampa Bay targets, including beaches, parks and even the Tampa FBI field office.

He also allegedly rehearsed what he would say during the attack, some of which was intercepted by electronic surveillance.

“Learn about America. Today is your emergency. Today we killed you just like you killed us,” he was overheard saying, according to the affidavit. “This is revenge against Muslims.”

Alazari was originally from California, but he spent most of his life overseas and eventually embraced extremist Islamic ideology, according to the FBI.

He was imprisoned in Saudi Arabia for three years after he was convicted in 2015 of supporting Jaysh al-Islam, an armed extremist group fighting in the Syrian conflict.

In 2018, after serving his sentence, he was deported back to the United States, and the FBI immediately launched a terrorism support investigation.

One reason the case took so long to resolve is that Al-Azhari was declared mentally incompetent to stand trial in January 2022.

A judge ruled in November that Azhari regained capacity after receiving treatment at the Federal Prison Medical Center in Butner, North Carolina. (Associated Press)

(This is an unedited and auto-generated story from a Syndicated News feed, the content body may not have been modified or edited by LatestLY staff)

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