Washington (AFP) - A Kenyan member of the Al-Shabaab militant group who received pilot training in the Philippines was to appear in a US court on Wednesday to face charges of conspiring to mount a 9/11-style attack in the United States.
Cholo Abdi Abdullah, 30, is charged with six counts of terrorism-related offenses, the Justice Department said in a statement.
Abdullah, who was arrested in the Philippines in July 2019, was brought to the United States on Tuesday and was to be presented before a magistrate in Manhattan on Wednesday, the department said.
Acting Manhattan US Attorney Audrey Strauss said Abdullah obtained pilot training in the Philippines as part of an Al-Shabaab plot "in preparation for seeking to hijack a commercial aircraft and crash it into a building in the United States."
"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 US citizens and attacking the United States," Strauss said.
"Abdullah's plot was detected before he could achieve his deadly aspirations, and now he faces federal terrorism charges in a US court," she added.
According to the indictment, Abdullah attended flight school in the Philippines between 2017 and 2019 and eventually obtained his pilot's license.
While undergoing flight training, he allegedly conducted research into methods to hijack a commercial airliner and sought information on how to obtain a US visa.
Abdullah is charged with conspiring to murder US nationals, conspiring to commit aircraft piracy and other offenses. He could face a maximum sentence of life in prison.
The Somalia-based Al-Shabaab was designated a terrorist movement by the United States in 2008.
Somalia plunged into chaos after the 1991 overthrow of then-president Siad Barre, leading to years of clan warfare followed by the rise of Al-Shabaab which once controlled large parts of the country and Mogadishu.
Al-Shabaab was driven out of the capital in 2011, but its militants continue to wage war against the government, carrying out regular attacks.