A Kenyan man, who obtained pilot training in the Philippines, has been charged with plotting a September 11-style hijacking attacks in the United States, according to court documents unsealed on Wednesday.
Federal prosecutors said Cholo Abdi Abdullah, a suspected operative of the al-Qaeda affiliate al-Shabaab, had been in the custody of the Philippine authorities on local charges before he was flown to the United States on Tuesday where he’s now facing six terror-related offences.
Abdullah was about to make his first court appearance in New York on Wednesday.
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Acting Manhattan U.S. attorney general Audrey Strauss called the alleged scheme a “chilling callback to the horrific attacks” that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania in September 2001.
“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 John Demers said.
The federal prosecutors did not identify what the suspect was targeting in the United States.
Prosecutors said Abdullah traveled to the Philippines in 2016 when he enrolled in a flight school “for the purpose of obtaining training for carrying out the 9/11-style attack.”
The prosecutors said the trip was made at the direction of a senior al-Shabaab commander who was responsible for planning a 2019 Nairobi hotel attack.
According to court documents, Abdullah completed his training and obtained his pilot’s license by 2019.
Prosecutors said he attended the Flight School on various occasions and obtained pilot’s training.
They said during the training, Abdullah researched plans for a hijacking, including methods for breaking a cockpit door.
He also allegedly sought information “about the tallest building in major U.S. city, and information about how to obtain a U.S. visa.”