Philly DA: Teen Bomb-Maker Was 'Grave Danger to Everyone'

17-year-old nabbed in Philadelphia was allegedly testing devices, communicating with terrorists
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 15, 2023 2:41 PM CDT

A 17-year-old "aspiring terrorist" is facing multiple state felony charges in Pennsylvania after he was found to be communicating with a foreign terrorist group while building a weapon of mass destruction, officials said Monday. At a press conference, Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner said the unnamed teen "was doing things that are deeply disturbing and presented a grave danger to everyone," not just in Philadelphia but "potentially people around the country or even overseas," per the Philadelphia Inquirer. FBI Special Agent in Charge Jacqueline Maguire said he'd purchased "tactical equipment, wiring, chemicals" and other materials "commonly used in improvised explosive devices" and "was taking steps to put them together and test devices," per ABC News and CBS News.

The FBI became aware of the teen through his alleged communication with Katibat al Tawhid wal Jihad, a foreign terrorist organization with ties to al-Qaeda, beginning in March, per Philly Mag. The subsequent investigation, which involved weeks of surveillance, heated up as officials allegedly found he'd received 14 international shipments of military and tactical gear, per CBS. Maguire said he also had access to "quite a significant number of firearms" and had "conducted general research into potential targets" while "taking steps to travel overseas for the purpose of joining or supporting terrorist activity," per the Inquirer, ABC, and WPVI.

He was arrested Friday in the Wynnefield section of West Philadelphia, reportedly at the home of Qawi Abdul-Rahman, a defense attorney who unsuccessfully ran in the Democratic primary for Courts of Common Pleas judge this year. When a Philly Mag reporter asked if the teen is his son, Abdul-Rahman told him, "Text or call me one more time, and you'll find out what I'm really about." The teen faces charges of possessing weapons of mass destruction, criminal conspiracy, arson, causing/risking catastrophe, attempt to commit criminal mischief, possession of an instrument of crime, and reckless endangerment, which together "represent the most serious alleged terrorist activity prosecuted in Philadelphia County court in recent history," Krasner said, per Philly Mag. He's charged as a juvenile, though Krasner's office is requesting a move to adult court. (More terrorism stories.)

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