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July 02, 2018

FBI: Alleged would-be Cleveland bomber plotted Philadelphia attack for Labor Day

Demetrius Pitts once lived here and allegedly considered City Hall, other locations to detonate a truck bomb

Investigations Terrorism
Philadelphia City Hall  and philly Skyline Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

City Hall and the Philadelphia skyline.

Demetrius Pitts, the man charged with plotting a July Fourth attack in Cleveland, also allegedly told an undercover FBI agent he was planning an attack in Philadelphia to take place on Labor Day, according to information from the Philadelphia office of the U.S. Attorney.

Pitts, 48, formerly lived in Philadelphia but had moved to Ohio. The FBI announced Monday that Pitts, 48, had been arrested in connection with an investigation that began in 2017 after he allegedly expressed support on social media for Al-Qaeda.

According to court documents, Pitts allegedly told an FBI agent about the timing of his plan to attack Philadelphia, describing this city as a "big target." On Sunday, Pitts allegedly showed the agent a map of Philadelphia and suggested possible targets including Philadelphia City Hall and an unspecified federal building.

Pitts allegedly described using truck bombs in the Philadelphia and Cleveland attacks, and investigators said he compared explosive device he wanted to deploy to the one used in the deadly bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, the FBI agent commented to Pitts about how many people potentially would die and be injured in the these attacks, and Pitts allegedly said. “I don’t care."

Investigators said Pitts allegedly had conducted reconnaissance in Cleveland last week and was planning to pack a van with explosives for an attack targeting those watching fireworks or attending the Cleveland's Fourth of July parade.

Pitts – also known by the names Abdur Raheem Rahfeeq and Salahadeen Osama Waleed – allegedly planned to make a similar reconnaissance trip to Philadelphia, authorities said.

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In connection with the alleged Cleveland plot, he allegedly expressed a desire to kill military personnel and their families. He allegedly planning to give away remote-control toy cars packed with explosives to children of military personnel, investigators said.

Pitts is charged in federal court with one count of attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization. The charge has a maximum 20-year prison sentence.

Pitts reportedly has a previous criminal record that includes charges of domestic violence, aggravated robbery, and carrying a concealed weapon.

Officials said it is unclear how close Pitts was to carrying through the alleged attacks. According to the Associated Press, the arrest occurred over the weekend.