TAMPA, Fla. - The FBI has charged a Tampa man with providing material support to ISIS after they say he stockpiled weapons, expressed allegiance to the "caliphate" and worshipped the Orlando nightclub shooter.
During recorded conversations, Muhammed Momtaz al-Azhari, 23, of East Tampa said, "I want to die in a shootout with disbelievers. I want to take revenge," to a confidential informant. "I don't want to take [kill] four or five, I want to take at least fifty, like brother Omar Mateen in Orlando did."
The FBI says the US citizen had served three years in a Saudi Arabian prison for trying to join a terrorist group.
He was sent to the United States in 2018, winding up on the FBI's radar this April after attempting to buy a gun and silencer on Ebay.
For the next month, the FBI watched as he bought weapons, disguises, and tactical gear. They even listened while he was at home in East Tampa, as he bad-mouthed news clips about ISIS and recited terrorist tropes.
Courtesy Department of Justice
The FBI followed as he went to the site of the Pulse shooting, and said he cased in-person or searched on his phone for Bayshore Blvd., Honeymoon Island, the Hard Rock casino, the FBI's Tampa office, and "busy beaches."
At one point, TPD arrested him for carrying a loaded gun at his job at Home Depot on North Florida Ave.
He was released after a judge ordered him not to possess weapons.
The FBI wrote he told co-workers at Home Depot that on 9/11, "Americans got what they deserved."
Conversations with confidential informants reveal he was willing to kill women and children, saying, "We do not stop the bombing because of children in America."
"If he wasn't stopped by law enforcement, we may be talking about something much more serious here today," said legal analyst Anthony Rickman.
Although he appears to have scouted numerous places, including Honeymoon Island, it is unclear as to whether he ever settled on an actual target.
He also rehearsed portions of an attack and the statements that he would make during or in connection with such an attack.
“The primary mission of the FBI is to protect the American public from a terrorist attack. Today’s announcement of the arrest of Muhammed Momtaz Al-Azahari is proof we are committed to that pledge. I commend the 18 federal, state, and local member agencies who comprise FBI Tampa’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) for working day and night to prevent the loss of life in the Tampa Bay community,” said Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Tampa Division Michael F. McPherson. “We were also fortunate to gain the cooperation of multiple citizens who willingly and bravely provided their assistance during this investigation. This strong bond between law enforcement and the public allowed us to disrupt this threat.”
If convicted, Al-Azhari faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison.
He was arrested Sunday after buying weapons from someone he thought was a co-conspirator.
The entire criminal complaint is below: