The attack was to be part of Islamic terrorist group Al Shabaab’s “Operation Jerusalem Will Never Be Judaized.”
By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News
A Kenyan man who spent several years training to re-enact the 9/11 terror attack in the United States will be charged Wednesday with six terrorism-related offenses, the Department of Justice has announced.
Cholo Abdi Abdullah, who belongs to the Islamic Al Shabaab (“the youth”) terrorist group, learned how to fly a plane in the Philippines from 2017 to 2019, ultimately receiving his pilot’s license. He also researched plane-hijacking methods that included how to breach security on commercial airliners and break into the cockpit.
His possible target was “the tallest building in a major U.S. city,” according to the Justice Department statement.
The 30-year-old African was arrested in the Philippines in July 2019 on local charges and was transferred to American custody on Tuesday.
He pleaded not guilty in a federal court in Manhattan on Wednesday.
If convicted, Abdullah faces a maximum sentence of life in prison, with a mandatory minimum of 20 years’ imprisonment.
“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,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers. “And it also highlights our commitment to pursue and hold accountable anybody who seeks to harm our country and our citizens.”
Al Shabaab is an offshoot of al Qaeda, the terrorist organization that carried out the September 11, 2001 attack on New York’s World Trade Center and the Pentagon that killed nearly 3,000 people in the worst-ever terrorist strike on American soil. It acts as al Qaeda’s principal branch in East Africa, and is responsible for numerous deadly terrorist attacks, said the Justice Department.
Its most recent strikes have been part of an operation it called “Operation Jerusalem Will Never Be Judaized,” which ostensibly came in reaction to the Trump administration’s 2018 transfer of the American embassy to Jerusalem.
These included a January 2019 attack on a hotel in Nairobi, Kenya that killed over 20 people, including an American who had survived the 9/11 attack. Al Shabaab also took credit for an assault in September 2019 on an American military facility in Somalia, and an attack on another American facility in Kenya in January 2020 that killed three Americans.
The Justice Department credited the joint efforts of many American, Kenyan and Philippine departments in the foiling of the current plot.
New York Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner Dermot Shea especially praised the FBI for its work, saying, “The outstanding work of our NYPD detectives and federal agents of the FBI’s New York Joint Terrorism Task Force, along with all our law enforcement partners, put an end to those plans and ensured that no one would be harmed.”