His name is Cholo Abdi Abdullah and according to an indictment unsealed today, he spent two years getting a pilot’s license so he would be ready to hijack a plane and carry out a terror attack reminiscent of 9/11. His activity was being directed by a leader of the terror group “al Shabaab.”
The indictment, unsealed Wednesday, charges Cholo Abdi Abdullah with six counts which include multiple counts of providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization, conspiracy to commit aircraft piracy and conspiracy to kill U.S. citizens.
Prosecutors allege Abdi Abdullah attended a flight school from 2017 and 2019 in the Philippines and obtained training, “ultimately completing the tests necessary to obtain his pilot’s license.”
They say he also allegedly researched how he could hijack a commercial airliner and breach a cockpit door, and sought “information about the tallest building in a major U.S. city, and information about how to obtain a U.S. visa.”
None of the reports I’ve seen mention which tall building in which city Abdullah was targeting. But given that he was trying to recreate the 9/11 attack, my guess would be that he was aiming for New York.
Al Shabaab is a terror group based in Africa which has pledged allegiance to al Qaeda. The group has been carrying out attacks in protest over the decision to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem:
Recently, al Shabaab has embarked on a string of terrorist attacks as part of an operation purportedly in response to the United States’ decision to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, which the group has dubbed “Operation Jerusalem Will Never be Judaized.” In particular, these terrorist attacks perpetrated by al Shabaab include an attack on Jan. 15, 2019, at a hotel in Nairobi, Kenya, which resulted in the deaths of approximately 21 people, including a U.S. national and survivor of al Qaeda’s 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center in New York, New York; a Sept. 30, 2019, attack on a U.S. military facility in Somalia; and a Jan. 5, 2020, attack on another U.S. facility in Kenya, in which three Americans were killed.
Fortunately this attack never happened because U.S. authorities caught on to the plot before Abdullah could carry it out. He was arrested in the Philippines last summer after completing flight school. Just yesterday he was transferred to New York where he will be facing trial in a Manhattan court. If convicted, he faces “a maximum sentence of life in prison, and a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison.”
“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. But we remain even more resolute in our dedication to investigating, preventing, and prosecuting such lethal plots, and will use every tool in our arsenal to stop those who would commit acts of terrorism at home and abroad,” U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said.
Here’s a CBS News report on the charges.