• Pittsburgh reacts after Syrian refugee arrested for allegedly planning terror attack on local church

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    PITTSBURGH - Pittsburgh has always been a welcoming city.

    When asked to help Syrian refugees fleeing the war in their home country, Mayor Bill Peduto didn't hesitate and said yes.

    Related >>> Syrian refugee arrested for allegedly planning terror attack on Pittsburgh church

    From October 2015 to October 2016, 139 Syrian refugees came to Allegheny, Beaver and Washington counties as part of the Pennsylvania Refugee resettlement program.

    Reading this in the WPXI News App? Click the + next to the headline to subscribe to alerts for the latest details on the investigation into Mustafa Alowemer.

    Refugees are in fact screened by the FBI, Homeland Security and the National Counterterrorism Center using iris scans, fingerprints and medical exams. Their biometric information is checked against federal and international databases.

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    Mustafa Alowemer arrived in 2016 as a refugee and would have had to undergo screening.

    "Worst case scenario we have someone, 21 years old, in our community that has that much hatred who wants to kill people," said Wasi Mohamed, a local Muslim activist.

    Staff at the Jewish Center for Family Services who work with refugees say Alowemer is an outlier.

    "This is such a small blip, an anomaly in this process," Director of Refugee and Immigrant Services for JCFS Leslie Aizenman said. "The Syrian families have done well here. They're getting adjusted, learning English, the kids are in school, the parents are working. I expect we'll start to see people buying homes and starting businesses."

    What we know about Syrian refugee accused of planning terror attack on Pittsburgh church

    After learning of Alowemer's arrest, Channel 11 reached out to the Mayor's office.

    In a statement, Peduto reaffirmed his commitment  to welcoming refugees and immigrants, and opposing hate:

    “On behalf of the citizens of Pittsburgh I want to thank the U.S. Attorney’s office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for their arrest today, and the daily investigative work they and the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police do to protect us from acts of terrorism and hate.  


    Today’s events are especially alarming due to the suspect’s alleged target of yet another place of worship in our city, like the Tree of Life synagogue, which should be peaceful places of refuge and reflection that are free of threats of violence. 
    Pittsburgh has historically been a home for refugees and immigrants and will continue to be one. In debates over the refugee crisis the past several years, as people from around the world have sought to flee violence and misery and seek better lives for their families in the United States, I have always been consistent in our message: we welcome all refugees and immigrants, and we oppose hate against anyone in any form, and we also cooperate with law enforcement whenever legitimate and dangerous crimes are threatening us.  


    Today, unfortunately, those threats come from everywhere. The record shows most terrorists attacking the United States are domestic, such as the man who murdered 11 Tree of Life worshippers in October. The City of Pittsburgh will continue to welcome newcomers to our city and nation, while diligently working with federal law enforcement and others to keep us safe, and to eradicate all attempts to threaten and terrify us.” 

    "Obviously, the coalitions we've been building since the Tree of Life just has to help us to keep our work going. Like, we have to keep doing this. We have to keep making sure that our community doesn't produce these people," Mohamed said. 

    On Thursday, the Legacy International Worship Center congregants came together for its regularly scheduled Hour of Power Service.

    “We were not here to just come to church but we were here to celebrate that God kept us. God kept our community God kept our family. God kept our church," said Pastor Michael Day.

    The Christian Associates of Southwest Pennsylvania also put out a statement. Click here to read it.


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