A Kenyan man was preparing for a 9/11 style attack on the United States, federal prosecutors said on Wednesday
Cholo Abdi Abdullah was arrested in the Philippines in 2019, where prosecutors said he spent years training.
He was transferred to US custody Tuesday on charges he conspired to hijack an aircraft and slam it into a building.
The 30-year-old was allegedly part of an al-Shabaab unit and took orders from a commander in the group, who directed the deadly 2019 hotel attack in Kenya.
Prosecutors said Abdullah got flight training in the Philippines between 2017 and 2019 and obtained a pilot's license in preparation for an attack.
During that time, authorities said in a news release, Abdullah researched “the means and methods to hijack a commercial airliner," including how to breach a cockpit door and “information about the tallest building in a major U. city.”
“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 for National Security John Demers said in a statement.
Abdullah pleaded not guilty to terrorism-related charges.
He faces a mandatory minimum of 20 years in prison if convicted.
His defense attorney declined to comment.
The State Department in 2008 designated al-Shabab, which means “the youth” in Arabic, as a foreign terrorist organization.
The militant group is an al-Qaida affiliate that has fought to establish an Islamic state in Somalia based on Shariah law.
Prosecutors, in announcing the hijacking plot, said the extremist group recently “embarked on a string of terrorist attacks" following the United States’ decision to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.