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HomeNewsFBI Arrests 18-Year-Old for Plot To Attack Churches on Behalf of ISIS

FBI Arrests 18-Year-Old for Plot To Attack Churches on Behalf of ISIS

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The FBI has arrested an 18-year-old Idaho teen after uncovering his “violent plot” to attack churches on behalf of ISIS. The 18-year-old student allegedly planned to attack churchgoers in his hometown in Coeur d’Alene this past weekend.

A picture of the Idaho teen FBI arrested
Source: CNN/X

As a result, the Idaho teen Alexander Mercurio is now facing a federal charge. The Justice Department said he attempted to provide material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization. Furthermore, the FBI says Mercurio devised a plan to “incapacitate his father, restrain him using handcuffs, and steal his firearms.”

Officials say he wanted to use the firearms in an attack he planned to carry out in the northern Idaho resort city on Sunday, April 7. “The defendant allegedly pledged loyalty to ISIS and sought to attack people attending churches,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said.

Wray also noted that the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force detected and thwarted Mercurio’s horrific plans. In addition to supporting ISIS, Mercurio allegedly conspired to attack individuals at over 21 churches, according to the release. He could receive a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison if convicted.

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According to a criminal complaint, the FBI began looking into Mercurio when he contacted “confidential human sources” online. There, he revealed his support for ISIS and terrorist organizations. Court documents filed in the District of Idaho showed that the confidential human source met Mercurio in person.

Again, he expressed his support for ISIS. “Mercurio spread ISIS propaganda online and solicited ISIS’s involvement in and approval of his propaganda efforts,” court records said. Furthermore, he allegedly “discussed traveling from the U.S. to join ISIS, considered and planned ways to support ISIS financially.” 

However, Mercurio’s behavior “escalated” in 2024 when he began planning a suicide attack on churches in Coeur d’Alene. His plan reportedly involved using flame-covered weapons, explosives, knives, a machete, a pipe, and firearms, according to the court records.

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FBI investigators said Mercurio “made a ba’yah statement, stating his intention to die while killing others on behalf of ISIS.” However, on Saturday, April 6, FBI agents carried out a search warrant at Mercurio’s house and took him into custody.

Officials revealed they found items, including a “metal pipe,” “a black Smith and Wesson fixed blade knife,” and a “machete.” Following the arrest, the FBI identified Mercurio as an online student at a local school.

Court records show he had a school-issued laptop and Wi-Fi Hotspot. Authorities found files on the school-issued laptop “confirming Mercurio’s commitment to ISIS and its ideology.” They also found photos of him using ISIS-related gestures and documents about socialism, communism, and politics.

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Mercurio also participated in an online group chat with other ISIS supporters, according to court documents. “I’m 17 in USA,” Mercurio wrote in the chat on October 2, 2022, court documents show.

FBI agents have described Mercurio’s case as an eye-opener. U.S. Attorney Josh Hurwit said, “We have no higher calling than to protect our nation and our communities from terrorism.” “This case should be an eye-opener,” Special Agent in Charge Shohini Sinha of the Salt Lake City FBI said.

“Protecting the American people from terrorism remains the FBI’s number one priority,” the Special Agent added. Court filings on Tuesday, April 9, show Mercurio is without legal counsel for his case. As earlier mentioned, he faces up to 20 years in a federal prison.

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