The citizens of Cleveland dodged a gigantic bullet, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). On Sunday, July 1, 48-year-old Cleveland resident Demetrius Pitts was arrested by the FBI and local authorities for planning a terror attack to take place on the Fourth of July. More specifically, the Dayton Daily News of Dayton, Ohio has reported that Pitts has been charged with attempting to provide material support to the international terrorist group al-Qaeda.

According to court records obtained by the Dayton Daily News, the FBI first began monitoring Pitts back in December 2015.

At that time, Pitts sent a private Facebook message to a political commentary show. The message, according to the New York Times, expressed anti-American views and said that all Muslims need to be prepared to fight and kill Americans. Between 2015 and July 1, 2018, the FBI claims that Pitts's threats against American soldiers and civilians became more alarming and specific.

The same court documents obtained by the Dayton Daily News also show that Pitts's various social media accounts included violent images taken from jihadist training camps and expressions of Pitts's desire to recruit Muslims for the purpose of killing Americans. Special-agent-in-charge of the FBI's Cleveland office, Stephen Anthony, said in a press conference on Monday, July 2 that the federal government first launched an official investigation against Pitts last year.

The plot

The New York Times has reported that the arrest on Sunday came after the suspect told an undercover FBI agent (who was posing as an al-Qaeda sympathizer) that he wanted to acquire materials for making a bomb. Pitts said that he wanted to detonate bombs all across the United States, with the first one exploding in Cleveland during the Fourth of July.

When Pitts was arrested, he was meeting the undercover agent in order to plan a car bomb attack in Cleveland.

Stephen Anthony said during Monday's press conference that when Pitts lived in Cincinnati, he was known to call himself Abdur Raheem Rahfeeq and Salahadeen Osama Waleed. Anthony also said that Pitts said,“Put bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb — anywhere you want around here, and level stuff around here" when talking to the undercover agent.

Pitts also expressed a desire to pull off an attack larger than the Japanese assault on the U.S. Navy base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in December 1941. The suspect also suggested decapitating American soldiers and feeding their bodies to pigs, while he also theorized that bombs could be attached to toy cars and sent to the children of military members.