SCRANTON, Pa. – Police in Scranton, Pennsylvania, acting on a tip from a vigilant neighbor, arrested an Arab American man early Tuesday morning on suspicion that he conspired to provide material support to the Islamic State.
Police say that in early October of 2015, twenty-eight year-old Tariq al-Khaldi began amassing a cache of food, clothing, and assorted toiletries in the spare bedroom of his two-bedroom condo. Authorities allege the Lebanese-born al-Khaldi intended to disperse the items at a local community center housing Syrian Refugees.
Speaking to reporters this morning, Lackawanna County District Attorney Kevin Masterson said the FBI is assisting Scranton police in their investigation into Mr. al-Khaldi. “They’re primarily focusing on Mr. al-Khaldi’s internet search history and cell phone records,” Masterson said, adding that authorities are trying to determine if al-Khaldi could be involved in a larger plot to kill Americans.
Al-Khaldi’s Facebook page lists him as a Catholic, and sources say he’s been known to regularly attend Sunday Services at Saint Peter’s Cathedral in Scranton, but al-Khaldi’s landlord, Cathy Burte, has doubts. “”He doesn’t look like any Christian I’ve ever seen,” Burte told FOX 56 News. Referring to al-Khaldi’s Lebanese heritage, Burte said, “I have a hard time believing a Christian would even live in that part of the world.”
Several ominous posts on social media seem to support Burte’s suspicions. Most notably, on April 5, 2015, a-Khaldi posted a picture depicting Jesus rising from the grave with a tagline proclaiming, “God is great!” While deceptively positive, the phrase ‘God is great’ is English for ‘Allah akbar,’ a term commonly used by Islamic extremists.
Al-Khaldi’s arrest comes on the heels of the nation’s most recent mass shooting at the hands of ISIS inspired extremists on December 2 in San Bernardino, California. The attack, which left twelve dead and dozens more wounded, reignited existing fears that Islamic extremists posing as Syrian refugees could be infiltrating the United States in droves.