FBI Foils Idaho Teen's 'Truly Horrific' Plot to Attack Churches to Support ISIS

April 10, 2024
An 18-year-old Coeur d'Alene male had planned to carry out a suicide mission at churches using knives, guns, fire and other weapons, according to FBI investigators.

Source The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Wash.

Federal agents over the weekend arrested a Coeur d'Alene teen accused of conspiring to attack local churches in support of the terror group ISIS.

According to a news release from the U.S. Department of Justice, Alexander Mercurio, 18, planned to carry out the suicide mission at churches this past Sunday using knives, guns, fire and other weapons.

Instead, he was arrested Saturday after FBI agents initially learned of his allegiance with the notorious terrorist faction online, according to an affidavit from the case. He chose to "kill as many as possible" at churches April 7 to align with the end of Ramadan, the document said. Specific churches weren't named, but Mercurio allegedly wrote of "three or five" within walking distance of his home. He also allegedly mentioned a church he knew of near his school.

In the news release, FBI director Christopher Wray called Mercurio's alleged plot "truly horrific."

"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 Garland said in the release. "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."

After the FBI learned of the teen's online writings, informants began meeting with Mercurio, who laid out his plan to attack his father with a metal pipe, steal his guns and go on the church massacre in the name of ISIS, the affidavit said. He had expressed an interest in carrying out some kind of attack since October 2022, the document said.

Mercurio allegedly told an informant he once "drank the Kool-aid of white supremacy," but eventually found "more purpose" in ISIS.

The affidavit said the 18-year-old used his school-issued laptop to research and communicate about terrorism.

While scouting for churches to target, the document said Mercurio expressed dismay that there were "too many churches."

"I am going to fix that real soon," he allegedly told an informant.

Though the teen indicated his support for ISIS's beliefs, he also expressed wanting to carry out an attack "partially for the sake of satiating some kind of bloodlust," according to the affidavit.

In a message, he expressed to an informant a sense of shame that he had not "spat in the face" of a non-Muslim "or donated a single penny in the cause of Allah, let alone spilled their blood and induced terror in their hearts and minds," according to the document.

He planned to send his life savings to ISIS after the "martyrdom" mission, the affidavit said.

Mercurio faces a charge of attempting to provide material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization. He could see up to 20 years in federal prison.

"This case should be an eye-opener to the dangers of self-radicalization, which is a real threat to our communities," Special Agent in Charge Shohini Sinha of the Salt Lake City FBI said in the release. "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."

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(c)2024 The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Wash.)

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