Kenyan national Cholo Abdi Abdullah is expected to appear in a New York court on Wednesday to be charged with concocting a 9/11-style terror plot involving flying a hijacked airliner into a skyscraper in a major US city.
Abdullah, 30, faces six counts of terrorism-related offences, including conspiring to provide material support to a designated terrorist group, conspiring to commit aircraft piracy, conspiring to kill US nationals, conspiring to destroy aircraft, and conspiring to commit acts of terrorism across national boundaries. Each charge carries with it a maximum sentence of between 20 years and life in prison.
In a statement released on Wednesday, the US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York indicated that Abdullah was arrested in the Philippines in July 2019, and transferred to US custody on 15 December 2020.
He is alleged to have travelled to the Asian nation in 2016 at the direction of a senior al-Shabaab commander. While there, Abdullah was said to have obtained pilot training, and to have researched the means to hijack a commercial jetliner, as well as information about the tallest building in a major US city, and the procedures for obtaining a US visa.
Kenyan Indicted in the US For Conspiring To Hijack Aircraft On Behalf Of The Al #Qaeda-Affiliated Organization Al #Shabaab— Kenya West© (@KinyanBoy) December 16, 2020
Cholo Abdi Abdullah Obtained Pilot Training and Researched How to Hijack Aircraft in Order to Conduct a 9/11-Style Attack at the Direction of al Shabaab. pic.twitter.com/BnVEtQFCxw
Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers said in a statement that the alleged terror plot was a reminder "of the deadly threat that radical Islamic terrorists continue to pose to our nation," and the need to "pursue and hold accountable anybody who seeks to harm our country and our citizens," wherever they may be.
"We owe a debt of gratitude to the agents, detectives, analysts, and prosecutors who are responsible for this defendant's arrest," Demers added. The FBI and the New York Police Department were listed as the principle investigators in the case.
Acting Manhattan US Attorney Audrey Strauss called the case a "chilling callback to the horrific attacks of 11 September 2001," and said it was "a stark reminder that terrorist groups like al-Shabaab remain determined to kill US citizens and attack the United States."
The 9/11 terror attacks were the deadliest terrorist incident in modern history, killing nearly 3,000 people in New York, Washington and passengers aboard a hijacked plane that crashed in Pennsylvania while en route to the White House. The attacks also exposed hundreds of thousands of New York residents to deadly toxic dust, with more than 2,000 first responders and others dying from severe health problems associated with exposure in the past 19 years.