US man 'planned IS-inspired attack' on Ohio synagogue

US man 'planned IS-inspired attack' on Ohio synagogue
Damon Joseph, 21, had allegedly made a detailed plan to kill worshippers at a synagogue in the city of Toledo during the Jewish Sabbath.
3 min read
11 December, 2018
Joseph was arrested after picking up two semi-automatic assault rifles from an undercover agent [Getty]

An Ohio man was charged by US authorities with providing material support to the Islamic State group for an alleged plan to carry out a mass shooting at a synagogue. 

Damon Joseph, 21, had allegedly planned to kill worshippers at a synagogue in the city of Toledo during the Jewish Sabbath, which begins at sunset on Friday and lasts until nightfall on Saturday. 

He was arrested on Friday when he picked up two semi-automatic assault rifles from a federal undercover agent. Police said the rifles had been made inoperable. 

An affidavit filed in federal court claimed Joseph was inspired by IS online propaganda and the October shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue - the worst anti-semitic attack in modern US history in which 11 were killed. 

"I admire what the guy did with the (Pittsburgh) shooting actually," Joseph wrote to an undercover agent, according to the affidavit. 

"I can see myself carrying out this type of operation inshallah," he was quoted as saying, using a common Arabic-language expression meaning "God willing".

A day before his arrest, authorities said Joseph provided a plan for his attack - including the address of the synagogue and research to identify when more worshippers would be present. 

An undercover agent met Joseph at a predetermined location on Friday and he took a duffel bag containing two AR-15-type rifles, according to the affidavit. He was then arrested. 

"This man spent months planning a violent terrorist attack on behalf of ISIS here in the United States," US Attorney Justin Herdman said in a statement. 

"The charges describe a calculated man fuelled by an ideology of hatred and intent on killing innocent people."

Joseph came to the attention of the FBI in May, when he began distributing messages of support for the Islamic State group on social media, authorities said. 

An undercover agent began communicating with Joseph. Over the subsequent months, he expressed an interest in supporting Islamic State propaganda operations and, eventually, to carrying out an attack. 

Anti-semitism rising

The arrest comes amid increased concerns about anti-semitic violence across the United States.

Last month, a Somali-born man was charged with a hate crime for allegedly trying to run over two men leaving a Los Angeles synagogue and spewing anti-Semitic insults.

Mohamed Abdi Mohamed, 32, who was arrested shortly after the incident on November 23, faces two felony counts of assault with a deadly weapon - his vehicle - as well as a hate crime allegation.

He faces nearly nine years in prison if convicted of the charges.

In October, a synagogue south of Los Angeles was defaced with anti-Semitic graffiti, in an attack that took place just days after the Pittsburgh massacre.

The mostly elderly victims were shot in a bloody assault on the Tree of Life synagogue by a shooter who said he "wanted all Jews to die".

In response, a crowdfunding campaign by two Muslim American groups raised more than $230,000 for survivors and relatives of the victims.

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