National Security

Kenyan man trained to conduct 9/11-style attack in US, prosecutors say

Greg Nash

Federal prosecutors announced Wednesday that a Kenyan man has been charged with six counts of terrorism-related offenses over alleged plans to conduct a 9/11-style attack in the U.S.

The Justice Department said in a press release that Cholo Abdi Abdullah planned to hijack an aircraft in the U.S. and crash it into a building. He is a member of the Somalia-based al-Shabaab terrorist organization, which has ties to al Qaeda and is one of the group’s most lethal affiliates.

Prosecutors said that at the behest of a senior al-Shabaab commander who orchestrated the deadly 2019 attack on a hotel in Kenya, Abdullah obtained pilot training in the Philippines and prodded for flaws in airport security in preparation for the strike.

He also reviewed tactics for hijacking a flight, including how to break through a cockpit door from the outside, and researched the tallest building in a major U.S. city and avenues to get a visa to the U.S. 

Prosecutors did not name the city Abdullah planned to attack.

Abdullah, 30, was first arrested in the Philippines in July 2019 on local charges and was ultimately transferred to the U.S. on Tuesday. He is expected to appear in a Manhattan court to face charges Wednesday.

“This case, which involved a plot to use an aircraft to kill innocent victims, reminds us of the deadly threat that radical Islamic terrorists continue to pose to our nation. And it also highlights our commitment to pursue and hold accountable anybody who seeks to harm our country and our citizens. No matter where terrorists who plan to target Americans may be located, we will seek to identify them and bring them to justice,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers.  

“Nearly 20 years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, there are those who remain determined to conduct terror attacks against United States citizens. Abdullah, we allege, is one of them,” added FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William Sweeney Jr.

Abdullah is charged with conspiring to provide and providing material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, conspiring to murder U.S. nationals, conspiring to commit aircraft piracy, conspiring to destroy aircraft and conspiring to commit acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries.

He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Tags Al-Shabaab Terrorism

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