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FBI arrests Idaho man who planned to ‘die while killing others on behalf of ISIS’ in church attacks

The FBI arrested the 18-year-old after he made a social media statement about “respond(ing) to the call to the caliphate by killing Jews and Christians”


Alexander Mercurio took a photo next to the Islamic State group’s flag that he planned to post online before his attack. (U.S. Department of Justice/TNS)

U.S. Department of Justice/TNS

By Sally Krutzig
Idaho Statesman

BOISE, Idaho — A Coeur d’Alene man was arrested over the weekend for allegedly planning an attack on local churches in the name of the Islamic State group — his plans foiled at the last minute by the FBI.

The Department of Justice said in a news release that Alexander Mercurio, 18, “pledged his allegiance” to the Islamic militant group and planned to attack individuals at Coeur d’Alene churches using knives, firearms and fire.

The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force began monitoring Mercurio in 2021 when he started spreading the group’s propaganda online, the release said. Over the next several years, Mercurio became active in online groups and chats related to the Islamic State.

Messages sent by Mercurio indicated that his parents attempted to stop his behavior, according to the release.

“My parents want me to stop being Muslim and praying and drop everything 100 percent tomorrow or they take away absolutely everything and send me to in-person school to make sure I don’t pray or if that doesn’t work send me to youth camp or juvenile hall or something IDK please I just don’t know what to do, this will probably be my last message in a long while,” Mercurio wrote in a message to fellow extremists, the FBI said.

Mercurio’s behavior escalated in early 2024, according to a police affidavit. The FBI said he selected at least one specific church, which the FBI did not name, for an attack on Sunday, April 7. He planned to potentially “incapacitate his father, restrain him using handcuffs and steal his firearms” to maximize the number of casualties, according to the affidavit.

Mercurio posted his allegiance to the Islamic State group on April 6 and promised to “die while killing others on behalf of ISIS,” according to the complaint. The FBI said his statement was about “respond(ing) to the call to the caliphate by killing Jews and Christians.”

The criminal affidavit said Mercurio’s plan was to “go home after work to pray, to use the restroom, grab his backpack and fill his pockets, walk to the church, pull out the pipe to light it on fire on one end, hit people in the elbows and kneecaps, force them to the ground, slit their throats with a knife or machete, start small fires, use gas cans to throw at the small fires to cause an explosion and when the police respond he will hide in a corner and attempt to grab the gun of an officer to use.”

Sometime between that message and his planned attack, the FBI said agents raided his home and found a toolbox in Mercurio’s bedroom closet that held items described in his attack plan, including a “metal pipe, handcuffs, folding saw, head covering two canisters of butane fuel, a machete, hand sanitizer, a black Smith and Wesson fixed blade knife, binoculars, balaclava, two lighters, and a black and white ‘ISIS’ flag.”

The Islamic State group is often referred to as ISIS.

Mercurio was charged through a federal complaint with attempting to provide material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization. He could face up to 20 years in federal prison if convicted.

“This case should be an eye-opener to the dangers of self-radicalization, which is a real threat to our communities,” said Special Agent in Charge Shohini Sinha of the FBI in Salt Lake City.

“Protecting the American people from terrorism remains the FBI’s No. 1 priority, and we continue to encourage the public to report anything suspicious to the FBI or your local law enforcement.”


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