A 23-year-old Tampa Man has been charged with attempting to support ISIS by carrying out terrorists attacks in Florida, including one at Honeymoon Island, according to authorities.
Muhammed Momtaz Al-Azhari was arrested on Sunday following an investigation by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, which included police departments in Tampa, Clearwater and St. Petersburg and sheriff’s offices in Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough counties. If convicted, Al-Azhari faces up to 20 years in prison.
In a release, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Al-Azhari expressed his admiration for Pulse nightclub shooter Omar Mateen and talked about his desire to conduct a similar mass shooting.
Al-Azhari researched and scouted out several potential targets in the Tampa Bay area, including Honeymoon Island, authorities said. He went as far as rehearsing the attacks, including what he would say during them, they said.
“We are grateful for the hard work and swift action by our law enforcement partners and concerned citizens during this investigation,” said U.S. Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez for the Middle District of Florida. “Their coordination and cooperation in this matter allowed us to interrupt a serious threat, without harm to anyone.”
Al-Azhari has a criminal history with terrorism charges in Saudi Arabia.
During the investigation, he tried to buy multiple firearms and eventually acquired a Glock pistol with a silencer, authorities said.
“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.”