Teen Arrested in Federal Terrorism Probe

Leaders from city and federal law enforcement on Monday announced that a 17-year-old resident of West Philadelphia has been arrested and charged as part of a federal terrorism investigation.  

The juvenile was taken into custody by FBI SWAT officers at his residence in the Wynnefield section of Philadelphia on Friday, August 11. An investigation led by the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, which includes detectives detailed from the Philadelphia Police Department, is active and ongoing. 

The District Attorney’s Office has charged the juvenile with Weapons of Mass Destruction, Criminal Conspiracy, Arson, Causing/Risking Catastrophe, Attempt to Commit Criminal Mischief, Possession of an Instrument of Crime, and Recklessly Endangering Another Person.  

“The work of the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force potentially thwarted a catastrophic terrorist attack in the name of a perverted ideology that in no way, shape, or form represents the beliefs of the overwhelming majority of peace-seeking people of faith, including Muslims,” District Attorney Larry Krasner said. “The charges we have filed against this individual represent the most serious alleged terrorist activity prosecuted in Philadelphia County court in recent history. 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,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Jacqueline Maguire said, “and I think it’s very fair to say that lives were saved because of this investigation. Investigations like this one – with the amazing work that continues and the successful mitigation of such a significant threat – are exactly why we do what we do, and yet another reminder of what a privilege it is to serve with such dedicated colleagues. I’m so proud of my team for their incredible work on this case, and thankful to our partners for their significant and continued assistance.” 

The juvenile is alleged to have been in contact with individuals and groups designated by the U.S. State Department as global terrorists, including Katibat al Tawhid wal Jihad (“KTJ”), which is believed to primarily operate in Syria and is responsible for attacks including the deadly April 2017 attack on the St. Petersburg, Russia, metro and the 2016 suicide car bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. 

Investigators with the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force were able to connect a Meta (aka Instagram) social media account that communicated with an account affiliated with KTJ in March and April of 2023 to the juvenile. A WhatsApp account linked to the juvenile’s phone number was also found by investigators to have a banner of Riyad-us-Saliheen Martyrs’ Brigade, a Chechnya-based terrorist group, as its profile photo. On August 6, according to the Task Force, the juvenile’s WhatsApp profile photo was changed to the image of the ISIS banner.  

District Attorney Krasner added, “Self-radicalization by young people via the internet is a threat to all families. Parents: Keep an eye out for violent cults that would lure in your kids under the guise of politics or religion.”  

The juvenile is further alleged to have received messages related to construction of improvised explosive devises (IEDs) and to have purchased materials online such as chemical cleaners that are used to construct IEDs, as well as outdoor or tactical gear.  

On August 7, 2023, FBI special agents surveilling the juvenile observed him purchasing materials that can be used to make IEDs, and recovered from his household trash materials including electric wiring that can be used to construct IEDs.  

On August 8, 2023, U.S. Customs and Border Protection provided records revealing 14 international shipments of military and tactical gear to the juvenile’s address.  

A warrant for the juvenile’s arrest was approved on August 11. The juvenile was apprehended and two residences tied to him were searched by federal agents. 

If the juvenile’s case is transferred by a judge to adult criminal court, more information related to the allegations against him will be available to the public.