Kenyan man allegedly plotted to hijack plane and 'conduct a 9/11-style attack,' prosecutors say

Department of Justice
(Image credit: MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

A Kenyan man has been charged with conspiring to conduct "a 9/11-style attack in the United States," prosecutors said Wednesday.

An unsealed indictment on Wednesday showed that federal prosecutors in Manhattan have charged Cholo Abdi Abdullah, a Kenyan national who they described as an operative for the Somali terrorist group and Al Qaeda affiliate al Shabaab, The New York Times reports.

He allegedly received pilot training in the Philippines with plans to "hijack a commercial aircraft and crash it into a building in the United States," Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said. This was allegedly at the direction of an al Shabaab commander who planned an attack on a hotel in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2019.

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Abdullah allegedly "conducted research into the means and methods to hijack a commercial airliner" and sought "information about the tallest building in a major U.S. city," prosecutors also 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," Strauss said.

Strauss also praised the "outstanding investigative work" of the FBI and the New York Joint Terrorism Task Force that detected this plot. Prosecutors said Abdullah was previously arrested in the Philippines in 2019 and this week was transported to the United States, and he's set to be arraigned in New York on Wednesday.

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