HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. – A Florida man is in custody after a complaint indicated he attempted to supply the terrorist group ISIS with materials to carry out attacks as well as planned acts of terrorism locally, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Muhammed Momtaz Al-Azhari, 23, of Tampa, was arrested by federal agents Sunday and faces up to 20 years in prison, should he be found guilty.
FBI officials said Al-Azhari was an ISIS supporter who planned and attempted to carry out an attack on behalf of the terrorist organization. Officials also said Al-Azhari was in possession of weapons he intended to use in those attacks at the time of his arrest.
According to a news release, Al-Azhari “expressed admiration” for the gunman responsible for the Pulse nightclub shooting and “spoke of his desire to carry out a similar mass casualty shooting.”
Investigators found Al-Azhari had picked out targets across Tampa for his intended attack, which included Honeymoon Island. FBI officials said Al-Azhari had even rehearsed the means in which he would conduct the acts of terrorism.
Records showed that Al-Azhari faced prior terrorism charges in Saudi Arabia.
“We are grateful for the quick work of our partners at the FBI to apprehend Al-Azhari before he could carry out his attack,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers. “This case demonstrates the department’s commitment to stand vigilant against the threat of terrorism and violent extremism in all its forms.”
Agents said in a news release of Al-Azhari’s arrest that “a complaint is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed one or more violations of federal criminal law, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.”