A 23-year-old Florida man is accused of providing material support to the Islamic State extremist group, attempting to buy multiple weapons and scouting potential targets for an attack in the Tampa Bay area, according to federal prosecutors.
Muhammed Momtaz Al-Azhari, a U.S. citizen is charged with attempting to provide material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization.
An FBI affidavit says Al-Azhari was recorded expressing his admiration for Omar Mateen, the deceased shooter at the Orlando Pulse nightclub massacre in 2016 that left 49 people dead. Al-Azhari even drove by the location to “scope” it out.
A confidential FBI informant, told officials that Al-Azhari said he wanted to kill at least 50 people.
The affidavit also details how Al-Azhari negotiated with an undercover FBI employee to purchase a variety of guns and silencers, including an AK-47-style rifle. He also scouted a number of target in the Tampa Bay area.
Officials say his phone was filled with multiple videos in regarding the Islamic State group. Another video, the FBI says, shows Al-Azhari in a facemask and pointing a gun at presumably someone on the floor.
“Hey you, get on the floor. Get on the floor now. Don’t you move, don’t you move, I’m telling you, I will kill you,” he says in the video.
Officials arrested him on Sunday. Police retrieved weapons that were allegedly to be used in an attack.
Al-Azhari’s public defender said the government’s charges in the case unfairly attempt to portray him as a terrorist.
Al-Azhari had previously been convicted in Saudi Arabia in 2015 of terror-related crimes, including attempting to join a terrorist group. He served three years in prison in Saudi Arabia and then was deported to the U.S., according to the FBI. He lived in California and since 2019 in the Tampa area.
If convicted he faces up to 20 years in prison.