Kenyan Planned 9/11-Style Attack After Training as Pilot, U.S. Says

Kenyan Planned 9/11-Style Attack After Training as Pilot, U.S. Says

Kenyan Planned 9/11-Style Attack After Training as Pilot, U.S. Says

Kenyan Planned 9/11-Style Attack After Training as Pilot, U.S. Says

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan have charged a Kenyan man with plotting a Sept. 11-style attack on a building in an American city, according to a newly unsealed federal indictment.

The man, Cholo Abdi Abdullah, 30, was an operative for the Shabab, the indictment said. The Somali terrorist group has been described as Al Qaeda’s largest and most active global affiliate.

The indictment said that under the direction of a senior Shabab commander who planned a deadly 2019 attack on a hotel in Nairobi, Kenya, Mr. Abdullah sought to obtain pilot training, test flaws in airport security and take other steps in preparation for hijacking a civil aircraft and conducting a terrorist attack on behalf of the Shabab.

“This chilling callback to the horrific attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, is a stark reminder that terrorist groups like al Shabab remain committed to killing U.S. citizens,” Audrey Strauss, the acting U.S. attorney in Manhattan, said in a statement.

Mr. Abdullah began the process of enrolling in a flight school in the Philippines in 2016, received training and ultimately completed the tests necessary to obtain his pilot’s license, according to the charges.

He also researched methods of hijacking a commercial airliner, such as how to breach a cockpit door from the outside, the indictment charged.

In addition, the indictment says Mr. Abdullah did research about the tallest building in a major U.S. city and sought information about how to obtain an American visa. The indictment does not identify the city or the building.

Mr. Abdullah, who was arrested by the Philippine authorities last year, was brought to the United States on Tuesday, the authorities said, and he was arraigned in Federal District Court in Manhattan on Wednesday. He pleaded not guilty to the six-count indictment, and a magistrate judge, Robert W. Lehrburger, ordered him detained.

Mr. Abdullah’s lawyer, Jill R. Shellow, said she had no comment after the hearing.

The charges against Mr. Abdullah include conspiring to murder Americans, to commit aircraft piracy, to destroy aircraft and to commit acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries. If convicted, Mr. Abdullah could face life imprisonment on some counts.

The Shabab, a radical Islamist insurgent group in Somalia that swore allegiance to Al Qaeda in 2012, has wanted to expand its reach, counterterrorism officials have said.

Prosecutors said the Shabab recently embarked on a string of attacks in response to the decision by the United States in 2018 to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, including the bombing of a luxury hotel in Nairobi in January 2019 that killed 21 people.

The group has carried out attacks on American targets, including a hit on an air base at Manda Bay, Kenya, in January, which killed three Americans.


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