A Kenyan man was on Wednesday charged in the United States for allegedly training in the Philippines to conduct a 9/11-style attack on American soil on behalf of the al-Shabab group, an affiliate organization of Al Qaeda based in Somalia.
According to Federal prosecutors in Manhattan and the US Justice Department, Cholo Abdi Abdullah, aged 30, was arrested in the Philippines in July 2019 and transferred to the United States on Tuesday to face six federal charges related to alleged terrorism.
He pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The prosecutors said that the accused conspired to hijack an aircraft and slam it into a building adding that he had already obtained a pilot’s licence in preparation for the attack.
“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,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers said in a statement.
Abdullah, the court was told, started planning the attack in 2016 under the direction of an al-Shabab commander who was also involved in planning a deadly attack in 2019 on a hotel in Nairobi, Kenya.
“Beginning in or about 2016, at the direction of a senior al Shabaab commander…the defendant, sought to obtain pilot training, test flaws in airport security, and take other steps for hijacking a civil aircraft to use in conducting a terrorist attack on behalf of al Shabaab,” the indictment read.
While training to be a pilot, the prosecutors said, Abdullah also researched how to hijack a commercial airlines flight, including how to breach a locked cockpit door from the cabin and how to get a US visa.
He faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison, but a possible maximum sentence of life, Reuters reports.
The September 11, 2001, coordinated attacks by the Wahhabi terrorist group Al-Qaeda against the US left at least 2,900 people dead and over 25,000 injured.