Feds charge Kenyan al-Shabab terrorist with plotting 9/11-style attack on American city: Jihadi trained as a pilot and was arrested in Philippines with a gun and a bomb
- Cholo Abdi Abdullah allegedly spent years training to carry out a 9/11-style attack; he pleaded not guilty to the charges in a New York court Wednesday
- Abdullah, who has been in custody since 2019, was extradited to the US Tuesday
- He allegedly took orders from al-Shabab commander behind 2019 Nairobi attack
- He researched ways to enter the US and how to hijack a plane, prosecutors say
- Abdullah faces multiple charges and if convicted 20 years to life in prison
- It is not clear which skyscrapers or cities were part of the alleged plot
- But the acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney called it ‘a chilling callback’ to 9/11
A Kenyan member of al-Shabab stands accused of plotting to fly an airliner into a United States’ skyscraper after training as a pilot in the Philippines.
Cholo Abdi Abdullah, 30, spent years preparing to carry out a 9/11-style attack, prosecutors say. He pleaded not guilty to all counts in a New York court Wednesday.
Abdullah was arrested in 2019 in the Philippines with an improvised explosive device, a hand grenade and a gun, CNN reported at the time. He was extradited to the US Tuesday.
Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said: ‘This chilling callback to the horrific attacks of September 11, 2001, is a stark reminder that terrorist groups like al Shabaab remain committed to killing U.S. citizens and attacking the United States.’
It is not clear which skyscrapers or cities were part of the alleged plot.
Abdullah faces multiple terrorism-related charges and if convicted 20 years to life in prison.
Cholo Abdi Abdullah, 30, pictured, spent years training to carry out a 9/11-style attack, prosecutors say. He will appear in a New York court later Wednesday
Abdullah, who has been in custody since last year, took orders from an al-Shabab commander responsible for the hotel attack in Nairobi in 2019, prosecutors said.
Al Shabaab has sworn allegiance to al Qaeda and serves as the terrorist group’s principal wing in East Africa.
The State Department in 2008 designated al-Shabab, which means ‘the youth’ in Arabic, as a foreign terrorist organization. The militant group has fought to establish an Islamic state in Somalia based on Shariah law.
Prosecutors, in announcing the hijacking plot, said the extremist group recently ’embarked on a string of terrorist attacks’ following the United States’ decision to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
Those include the 2019 attack that killed some 21 people — including an American businessman who survived the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center — at a Nairobi hotel.
Prosecutors said Abdullah got flight training in the Philippines between 2017 and 2019 and obtained a pilot’s license in preparation for an attack.
During that time, authorities said in a news release, Abdullah researched ‘the means and methods to hijack a commercial airliner,’ including how to breach a cockpit door and ‘information about the tallest building in a major U.S. city.’
‘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.
Cholo Abdi Abdullah will appear in a New York court later Wednesday
FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William Sweeney said: ‘Nearly 20 years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, there are those who remain determined to conduct terror attacks against United States citizens. Abdullah, we allege, is one of them.
‘He obtained a pilot’s license overseas, learning how to hijack an aircraft for the purpose of causing a mass-casualty incident within our borders.’
Abdullah is charged with conspiring to provide and providing material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization (al Shabaab), conspiring to murder U.S. nationals, conspiring to commit aircraft piracy, conspiring to destroy aircraft, and conspiring to commit acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries.
He has been detained pending trial. His defense attorney declined to comment.