Man Who Allegedly Threatened To Bomb Pittsburgh Church Denied Bail

Aug 16, 2019

Federal Magistrate Judge Cynthia Eddy denied bail Friday to the man accused of seeking to bomb a Pittsburgh church.

Mustafa Mousab Alowemer is facing terrorist charges for allegedly threatening to bomb Legacy International Worship Center on Pittsburgh's North Side. Prosecutors say he was targeting various ethnic communities including Christians, law-enforcement and Shia Muslims. While friends and family members pleaded for Alowemer to be released pending trial, prosecutor Soo Song characterized him as "a danger to the community." 

During Friday's hearing, FBI Special Agent Gary Morgan testified that Alowemer planned to put two bombs in the church. One would detonate when worshippers were in attendance, and the other would go off when first responders and law enforcement were at the scene. 

Prosecutors said Alowemer wanted to die in an explosive act, and that he has been placed on suicide watch while in custody.

In a cross examination, defense attorney, Andrew Lipson contended that Alowemer had no knowledge of how to properly build a bomb and wasn't a real threat. It was the undercover agent who had the expertise, Lipson argued. His client, he said, "met with no one else besides FBI agents. He doesn’t know how to get to Syria.”

In court for the hour-and-a-half-long hearing were a couple of dozen of supporters of Alowemer, including his mother, Fatmeh, who took the stand.

Fatmeh Alowemer testified that her son was not violent, and that he would help her with his younger siblings, as well as their neighbors with their kids. She said her family escaped Syria and lived in Jordan for a few years before coming to the U.S., and that Alowemer was happy to be in the United States. Fatmeh Alowemer also said she would watch him closely, even sleeping in the same room as him, to make sure that he made it to his court dates.

But Eddy, after acknowledging the arguments by both sides, said Alowemer would remain in federal custody. 

A trial date has not yet been set.