A Cleveland man was arrested after allegedly making plans for a terrorist attack on the city’s downtown July 4th parade with an undercover agent, authorities said Monday morning.
Demetrius Nathaniel Pitts, who used the name Abdur Raheem Rafeeq on Facebook, was taken into custody Sunday and has been charged with attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, Stephen Anthony of the FBI said in a news conference.
Pitts came under FBI surveillance in 2017 after he went on social media to express a hatred of the United States and a desire to join the terrorist group al Qaeda, Anthony said. Pitts is a US citizen and was radicalized in the United States, Anthony said. Court records say he’s 48.
Pitts met an undercover agent in June, said an affidavit provided by the FBI, and the two began discussing his desire to join al Qaeda and potential acts of terror.
“What would hit them in the core?” Pitts asked in a secretly recorded conversation on June 22, according to the affidavit. “Blow up in the, have a bomb to blow up at the 4th of July parade.”
Pitts told the agent he would conduct surveillance in downtown Cleveland and later gave the agent a phone with photos and videos of potential bomb targets, such as Voinovich Park and the US Coast Guard Station, according to the affidavit.
At first the agent and Pitts talked about placing bombs inside small remote-controlled cars, but in a July 27 conversation Pitts said they should also detonate an explosives-laden vehicle, the affidavit said.
“Yeah, like a full van,” Pitts said, according to the affidavit. “Why — why play wit’ ’em.”
Pitts told the agent he didn’t want to be involved in carrying out the attack, just doing reconnaissance, the affidavit said.
“The only thing I’m gonna be responsible for is going to look at the spot, to scope out the scenery,” he said, according to the affidavit.
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SOURCE: CNN, Hollie Silverman and Ralph Ellis