Kenyan national Cholo Abdi Abdullah is expected to appear in a New York court Wednesday and 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 offenses, 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 penalty of between 20 years and life in prison.
In a statement released Wednesday, the US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York indicated that Mr. Abdullah was arrested in the Philippines in July 2019, and transfered to US custody on December 15, 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 "reminds us 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 said to be the principle investigators in the case.
Acting Manhattan US Attorney Audrey Strauss called the case a "chilling callback to the horrific attacks of September 11, 2001," and said it was "a stark reminder that terrorist groups like al Shabaab remain committed to killing US citizens and attacking 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 hijacked aircraft which crashed in Pennsylvania. The attacks also exposed hundreds of thousands of New York residents to deadly toxins, with over 2,000 first responders and others dying from severe health problems sustained from exposure over the past 19 years.