A Florida terror suspect whose alleged list of targets for a mass-casualty shooting included the Hard Rock Tampa in Florida, has been ruled incompetent to stand trial, local CBS affiliate Tampa Bay 10 reports.
Muhammed Al-Azhari was arrested by the FBI in May 2020. The feds say he scoped out several possible targets for his planned Tampa-area atrocity in addition to the Hard Rock.
These included Honeymoon Island, Bayshore Boulevard, and the FBI’s Tampa Field Office, according to searches found on his phone and other devices.
The US citizen told an undercover federal agent that he wanted to “kill” his fellow Americans and other “infidels,” including his own father. He said he admired ISIS and the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooter.
Mental Health Problems
In the month before his arrest, he bought an Uzi, a bullet-proof vest, an “animal balaclava face mask,” and a drone and tried to order firearm parts and a silencer from eBay. And he filmed a mock rehearsal of himself carrying out a massacre, prosecutors claim.
But federal defenders say he has been suffering from untreated mental health issues, including schizophrenia. He has been ruled unfit to stand trial on charges of attempting to provide material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization and violations of the National Firearms Act.
But that’s a temporary measure. His lawyers say restoration of competency could take anywhere from four to eight months. In the meantime, prosecutors will continue to wor on the case.
In 2015, a teenage Al-Azhari attempted to travel to Syria to join the ISIS but was arrested, imprisoned, and tortured by Saudi authorities, which federal defenders say severely exacerbated his underlying mental health problems.
“In the Saudi prison he began to experience visual hallucinations and to talk to people who were not there,” they wrote. “After his release from prison his paranoia and delusions worsened, and he took to sleeping by the front door at night and waking up in panic, thinking that the FBI or Saudi spies were going to kill him.
“He was never formally examined or treated until adulthood, in large part because of cultural disapproval of mental health treatment within his family.”
According to Tampa Bay 10, Al-Azhari is being held in the Hernando County Jail until can be transferred to a federal medical center to begin his competency training. If he eventually stands trial and is convicted, he faces up to 40 years in prison.
In June 2020, Al-Azhari’s sister, Heba Momtaz Al-Azhari, was shot dead after she attacked a police officer with a knife in Temple Terrance, Fla.
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