17-year-old arrested in Philadelphia in connection with terrorism probe

The teen was working with KTJ, a global terrorist group affiliated with al-Qaeda, officials said.

Tuesday, August 15, 2023
'Aspiring terrorist' arrested during FBI raid in Philadelphia
The teen suspect was allegedly sending and receiving media containing terrorist propaganda and also took steps to go overseas for the purpose of joining or supporting the terrorist group.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- A 17-year-old teenager has been arrested in Philadelphia in connection with a terrorism probe.

During a press conference on Monday, FBI Special Agent in Charge of the Philadelphia Field Office Jacqueline Maguire said the 17-year-old male was arrested Friday on state charges and was allegedly communicating with the group Katibat al Tawhid wal Jihad (KTJ).

KTJ was designated as a global terrorist group in 2022 and is affiliated with al-Qaeda, officials said.

"The young man who is under arrest is -- was an aspiring terrorist who was not merely thinking but was doing things that are deeply disturbing and presented a grave danger to everyone," said Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner.

SEE ALSO: Philadelphia residents describe shocking FBI investigation at neighborhood home

The teen suspect was allegedly sending and receiving media containing terrorist propaganda and also took steps to go overseas for the purpose of joining or supporting the terrorist group.

FBI, Philly DA's Office announces arrest in terrorism probe on Aug. 14, 2023.

The teen allegedly had acquired chemicals and had taken steps to build a weapon of mass destruction. "Among the items he purchased were tactical equipment, wiring, chemicals and devices often used as remote detonators," Maguire said at the press conference.

"He had not only taken steps in acquiring those items and materials that are commonly used in improvised explosive devices, but that he had also taken steps to start putting potential devices together," Maguire added.

The investigation began sometime in March when the FBI became aware of the teen's alleged communication with KTJ over Instagram. Over a period of weeks, the FBI identified the 17-year-old and conducted an investigation, which included surveillance.

According to authorities, a WhatsApp account linked to the juvenile's phone number was also found by investigators to have a banner of Riyad-us-Saliheen Martyrs' Brigade, a Chechnya-based terrorist group, as its profile photo. On August 6, according to authorities, the juvenile's WhatsApp profile photo was changed to the image of the ISIS banner.

On August 8, U.S. Customs and Border Protection provided records revealing 14 international shipments of military and tactical gear to the juvenile's address.

A warrant for the juvenile's arrest was approved on August 11.

The FBI searched two separate locations, including one on the 5900 block of Woodbine Avenue in the city's Wynnefield section.

Chopper 6 was overhead Friday night as federal agents swarmed the residence and shut down the neighborhood. The teen was taken in to custody without incident.

SEE ALSO: FBI agents close off Philly neighborhood due to 'court-authorized' investigation

Federal agents closed off a Philadelphia neighborhood due to an investigation Friday night.

Neighbors say the feds arrived early Friday morning.

"It was pandemonium all around," recalled one resident. "Had the undercovers, the FBI, the SWAT, guns, they wouldn't even allow anyone to walk up the street."

Sources say guns confiscated from the Wynnefield home were registered to the suspect's father, who is not a suspect and cooperating with the investigation.

Video obtained by Action News also shows the FBI serving another warrant Friday afternoon at a home in the 1200 block of Wallace Street. Sources confirm it is in connection to the terrorism investigation.

Authorities could not disclose any possible targets, adding that the investigation was ongoing.

"So we don't want to get ahead of ourselves. However, we do know that the individual had conducted general research into potential targets. I would say it was so general that there was not a specific location. It was not just in the Philadelphia area," said Maguire.

The teen, who is not being identified at this time because he's a juvenile, is facing several charges including weapons of mass destruction, criminal conspiracy, arson, and causing or risking catastrophe.

The case has been filed in juvenile court, but the DA's office is seeking to have the teen's case moved to adult court, Krasner said.

It is believed KTJ primarily operates in Syria and is responsible for attacks including the deadly April 2017 attack on the St. Petersburg, Russia, metro and the 2016 suicide car bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.