A Kenyan national who reportedly conspired to hijack an aircraft to conduct a “9/11-style attack” on the U.S. was indicted, the Department of Justice announced Wednesday.
Cholo Abdi Abdullah, 30, was indicted on six counts of terrorism-related offenses as an active operative of al Shabaab, a foreign terrorist organization, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ). Abdullah was initially arrested in the Philippines in July 2019 before he was transferred to U.S. custody Tuesday.
“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,” FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. said in a statement.
“He obtained a pilot’s license overseas, learning how to hijack an aircraft for the purpose of causing a mass-casualty incident within our borders. Fortunately, the exceptional work by the men and women assigned to the many agencies that comprise the FBI’s New York JTTF have, once again, disrupted a threat to our communities,” Sweeney added.
Cholo Abdi Abdullah, a suspected operative of the al-Qaeda affiliate al-Shabaab, has been charged with plotting a Sept. 11-style hijacking attack in the U.S. https://t.co/uyS7ode3RC
— USA TODAY Politics (@usatodayDC) December 16, 2020
Abdullah began training for his pilot’s license at a flight school in the Philippines in 2016, according to the DOJ. While at flight school he researched security on commercial airliners, how to breach a cockpit door, tall buildings in U.S. cities and how to obtain a U.S. visa. He received his license sometime in 2019, according to the indictment.
“As alleged, Cholo Abdi Abdullah, as part of a terrorist plot directed by senior al Shabaab leaders, obtained pilot training in the Philippines in preparation for seeking to hijack a commercial aircraft and crash it into a building in the United States,” Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said in a statement.
“This chilling callback to the horrific attacks of September 11, 2001, is a stark reminder that terrorist groups like al Shabaab remain committed to killing U.S. citizens and attacking the United States,” Strauss added.
Al Shabaab has sworn allegiance to al Qaida and has recently conducted terror attacks as part of “Operation Jerusalem Will Never be Judaized” in response to the U.S. embassy in Israel’s move to Jerusalem, according to the DOJ.
Terror attacks by al Shabaab have killed several Americans, including a survivor of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, New York, according to the DOJ.
Abdullah is expected to appear before Magistrate Judge Robert W. Lehrburger in Manhattan federal court on Wednesday, according to the DOJ. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison and a minimum sentence of 20 years.
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