A Kenyan man has been charged with trying to stage a 9/11-style attack on the United States on behalf of the terrorist organization al-Shabab, according to federal prosecutors in court documents unsealed Wednesday. Cholo Abdi Abdullah, 30, was arrested in the Philippines in 2019 and had been in the custody of its authorities until Tuesday when he was transferred to U.S. custody on charges he conspired to hijack an aircraft and slam it into a building.
Abdullah, who is being held without bail, pleaded not guilty in his first court appearance Wednesday in New York. “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.
Prosecutors said Abdullah began planning the attack in 2016 at the direction of an al-Shabab commander who was behind a 2019 deadly attack in a hotel in Nairobi, Kenya. Abdullah allegedly traveled to the Philippines in 2016 where he received flight training and obtained a pilot’s license in readiness for an attack.
Abdullah, during his training, researched plans for a hijacking while seeking information about the tallest building in a major U.S. city and how to obtain a visa. Abdullah in 2018 also visited sites that had “jihadist propaganda” connected to al-Qaeda’s 2001 suicide hijackings, prosecutors said.
The United States faces a growing terrorism problem that will likely worsen over the next year, according to a report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The Washington, D.C.-based think tank says right-wing extremists were responsible for more than 76% of terrorist attacks and plots in 2019 and 90% in the first half of 2020.
On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, two hijacked passenger airliners crashed into the North and South towers of the World Trade Center complex in Lower Manhattan.
In less than two hours, the 110-story towers collapsed with the people in them killing over 2,000 people while two other planes crashed into the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania respectively. Orchestrated by the terrorist group Al Qaeda, the United States and the world at large was drenched in grief and will never forget that eventful day that occurred 19 years ago.