July 4 Terrorist Plot by American Who Pledged Allegiance to al-Qaeda Was Thwarted

July 2, 2018 Updated: July 2, 2018

The FBI announced that it thwarted a July 4 terrorist plot in Cleveland, Ohio, by a man who pledged allegiance to the al-Qaeda terror group and who sought to kill military personnel.

Demetrius Pitts, who is also known as Abdur Raheem Rahfeeq, was arrested Sunday, the Dayton Daily News reported. The investigation into Pitts’s activity started in 2017 when he made “disturbing” posts on social media to support al-Qaeda. Officials said Pitts later performed “reconnaissance” around downtown Cleveland last week, looking for a place to park a van laden with explosives before detonating it, causing a massive number of casualties.

“He talked about taking targets like St. John’s Cathedral off the map,” U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman, was quoted by the paper as saying. “(Pitts) wanted to strike at the values that are at the very core of our nation. He wanted us to be afraid to speak our minds. He also wanted us to be scared to gather in public places.”

Pitts will appear in court on Monday afternoon, facing a charge of attempted material support of a foreign terrorist organization, Fox8 reported.

Last week, he met with an undercover FBI agent, according to Anthony, and allegedly made statements, including, “What would hit them in their core? Blow up at the Fourth of July parade.” He also voiced hatred against the U.S. military, saying he would “chop off heads and hands,” which are punishment methods used by Islamic terrorist organizations such as ISIS, al-Qaeda, and the Taliban.

Pitts also said, “I don’t care and I have no regrets,” according to Herdman, Fox reported.

Anthony said that he also wanted to carry out an attack in Philadelphia, the Fox affiliate reported. He added that Pitts had an extensive criminal history, including charges but not exclusive to assault, domestic violence, carrying a concealed weapon. Officials stated that he radicalized himself, and he is an American citizen.

If convicted, he faces as many as 20 years in prison.

Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams said the public should still contact officials if they notice anything suspicious during the July 4 holiday.