Police: Idaho teen swore allegiance to ISIS, planned bloody assault on churches in Idaho

COEUR D'ALENE, ID - The United States dodged a significant terrorist attack this week when an 18-year-old Idaho man, who planned to attack churches with “guns, flame-covered weapons, explosives, knives, and a pipe,” had his scheme thwarted by authorities, the BBC reported. 

Alexander Mercurio was arrested on Saturday, April 6, only one day before the proposed attack, according to the Department of Justice. Mercurio had pledged loyalty to ISIS, authorities said. He is charged with attempting to provide material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization. 

“The defendant swore an oath of loyalty to ISIS and planned to wage an attack in its name on churches in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement. ISIS is a common name for the Islamic State. 

According to the DOJ, Mercurio wanted to pay homage to the Muslim “holy” month of Ramadan by attacking churches in his hometown, located in the northwestern part of the state. 

The AP reported that Mercurio had confided in a confidential informant that he had first connected with ISIS during the COVID-19 pandemic when schools were closed. Investigators found a number of files on his school-issued laptop that detailed ISIS' extremist ideology. 

Mercurio sent messages earlier this year that showed a plan to “kill as many as possible” at the nearest church to his home, then vowed to “rinse and repeat” the same attack on neighboring churches, then setting them on fire as he went until he was martyred by responding police officers. 

"I've stopped asking and praying for martyrdom because I don't feel like I want to fight and die for the sake of Allah, I just want to die and have all my problems go away," he told the informant in a message. 

As part of the scheme, Mercurio planned on beating up and then handcuffing his father, stealing his guns from a locked closet in the family home, and then carrying out his campaign of terror. He was arrested after he unwittingly shared details of the plan with an unnamed FBI source, according to the criminal complaint. 

According to the complaint, Mercurio had been identified as a person of interest under an online alias since July 2022. According to messages included in court documents, he hatched his beliefs in an online chat. 

He initially expressed an interest in Islamic fundamentalism and ISIS, which has been designated a terrorist group by the federal government. He also admitted being frustrated with his parents, saying they did not understand his religious views. 

His online messages soon turned dark, however, with Mercurio saying he would “donate every last cent in my bank” to the terrorist organization and that he would carry out a terrorist attack in the United States if he were unable to join ISIS in either Africa or the Middle East, court documents said. 

On March 21, Mercurio sent a DM to the informant in which he expressed he was getting restless and frustrated, wondering how much longer he could live "in such a humiliated and shameful state." 

"I have motivation for nothing but fighting--like some kind of insatiable bloodlust for the life juice of these idolators; a craving for mayhem and murder to terrorize those around me. I need some better weapons than knives," the DM said, according to a statement from the informant. 

On Saturday, a search warrant was executed at Mercurio’s family home by the FBI, with agents seizing a pipe, butane, hand sanitizer, a machete, and the firearms locked in his father’s closet. 

"Thanks to the investigative efforts of the FBI, the defendant was taken into custody before he could act, and he is how charged with attempting to support ISIS's mission of terror and violence," Garland said in the release. "The Justice Department will continue to relentlessly pursue, disrupt, and hold accountable those who would commit acts of terrorism against the people and interests of the United States." 

Mercurio’s arrest comes on the heels of a terrorist attack last month in Moscow, where over 100 people were killed at a concert hall in the Russian capital. In response to that attack, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security issued a security bulletin warning Americans of “possible threats to public gatherings in the United States.” ISIS claimed responsibility for the Moscow attack. 

According to the CATO Institute, citing Customs and Border Patrol data, 342 illegal aliens who were on the terror watchlist were apprehended at US borders since 2017, with 169 of those in FY-2023. Thus far in FY-2024, 49 illegal aliens on the terror watchlist have been detained illegally crossing into the United States. Those numbers do not include so-called “gotaways.” It is reasonable to assume that terror suspects are among the unknown gotaways. 

However, according to the House Committee on Homeland Security from last December, the number of gotaways could be as much as 20 percent higher than publicly reported numbers, according to former Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz. 


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