11:25 GMT27 January 2021
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    The terror suspect is reportedly affiliated with al-Shabaab, a Salafi Wahhabist jihadist group based in East Africa with direct links to al-Qaeda.

    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.

    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.

    9/11 also became a major post-Cold War inflection point for US foreign policy, with the administration of President George W Bush using the act of terror to launch an invasion of Afghanistan, where Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaeda leader thought to have masterminded the attacks, was thought to be holed-up. Washington also used the attack as an indirect pretext for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, despite a documented lack of evidence of co-operation between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. The attacks also gave rise to the US national security state as it exists today, including expanded surveillance powers for US intelligence and security services, and dramatically expanded spending on homeland security.

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