Seminole Hard Rock Tampa Among Targets for ISIS Acolyte Who Planned Mass Shooting: FBI

Posted on: May 29, 2020, 02:30h. 

Last updated on: May 29, 2020, 03:08h.

A Tampa man who told an undercover FBI agent he wanted to kill Americans and “infidels” — including his own father — allegedly planned to carry out a mass-casualty shooting in the Tampa Bay area.

Muhammed AI-Azhari Casino Shooter
US citizen Muhammed AI-Azhari bragged he wanted to kill 50 “infidels” in the Tampa Bay area, according to the FBI. (ABC Action News)

The Seminole Hard Rock Tampa was among his list of targets, the FBI said this week. Others included Honeymoon Island, Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa, and the FBI’s Tampa Field Office, according to searches found on his phone and other devices.

Federal agents arrested 23-year-old Muhammed AI-Azhari on May 24, two years after he was released from a Saudi prison and deported to the United States, having served a three-year sentence for terrorism offenses.

The US citizen was intercepted by Saudi authorities in 2015 while attempting reach Syria to join a terrorist group. He was also found to be in possession of terrorist propaganda.

Undercover Agent

According to the arrest warrant, the FBI had been tracking Al-Azhari for some time. But they began to take serious notice in April when they intercepted a package containing a firearm, destined for the suspect.

Agents contacted and interviewed the seller in Texas, who gave them permission to take over his eBay profile and account. Then, posing as the seller, an undercover agent communicated with Al-Azhari about further firearms purchases and slowly gained his trust.

Investigators discovered the suspect had acquired multiple firearms in recent months — all illegally, given his foreign felony conviction — including a Glock pistol and silencer.

According to court documents, Al-Azhari told concerned colleagues at the Home Depot store where he worked that Americans had “got what they deserved” on 9-11 and had expressed his admiration for Pulse nightclub shooter Omar Mateen.

He told the undercover agent he wished to carry out a similar act of violence and hoped to kill 50 people.

“I want to reach a point that they are scared to walk the streets,” he said of his fellow Americans. “That’s how I want to die, to be honest. I want to die, you know, in a shootout with the kuffar [infidels].”

In the Name of ISIS

According to court-authorized searches of Al-Azhari’s phone, on February 28 he scoped out the Tampa Hard Rock, which emerged from lockdown a week ago, as a possible target

“It’s the casino’s size and the amount of people in there, it would’ve been a pristine target for him,” local counterterrorism expert Bill Warner told local CBS affiliate 10 Tampa Bay. “And once in there, if he set up a position near the front door or just inside the front door, all those people couldn’t get out.”

Because of his alleged determination to commit an atrocity in the name of ISIS, Al-Azhari is charged with attempting to provide material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in a federal prison.