Terry L. Loewen was identified as the suspect who allegedly wanted to set off a bomb at the Wichita Mid-Continent Airport in Kansas.
Loewen, 58, was identified as a avionics tech expert who lives in Wichita. He had a security access card for the airport, said Barry Grissom, the U.S. Attorney, in a press conference on Friday after the arrest was made.
Loewen was charged with a count each of trying to use a weapon of mass destruction, attempting to damage property and attempting to provide support to the terrorist group al-Qaeda, The Associated Press reported.
Investigators told AP he was under investigation for around six months when he made statements about wanting to commit “violent jihad” against the United States. No other arrests are expected to be made in the case, officials said.
Loewen was described as a white male who self-radicalized himself by reading Islamist literature online, NBC reported.
He wanted to trigger a bomb blast and “die in the explosion as a martyr,” Grissom said.
According to a complaint, Loewen “has engaged in an online conversation with an individual who unbeknownst to him is an FBI employee.” Officials stressed that no one was in any danger during the entire investigation.
Grissom said the suspect wanted to drive a car filled with explosives to the Wichita Airport when he knew there were a lot of people there. He drove his car to the airport’s tarmac and was then arrested.
The explosives turned out to be inert as they were provided to him by the FBI, which stressed that “at no time was the public at risk” during the alleged bombing attempt.
He “spent months developing a plan to use his access card to the airport to drive a carload of explosives to the terminal,” officials said. He also apparently researched flight schedules to see when a maximum number of people would be at the airport.The FBI also added that he was trying to provide “terrorist support” to an overseas organization.
If convicted of all counts, he faces life in prison.
Wichita Police Chief Norman Williams said the case was “a major situation for our city that was averted” via law enforcement cooperation, reported the Kansas City Star.
At the airport on Friday, police and federal authorities with dogs were spotted combing over the area, local broadcasters repoted.
“Today’s arrest emphasizes that homegrown terrorism is a continuing threat in the United States,” FBI official Michael Kaste said at the conference.
Gov. Sam Brownback attended the press conference and lauded efforts made by law enforcement. U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran also offered his praise.
“We are grateful for the law enforcement officials who kept individuals, including many Kansans, safe today. This incident is a reminder that we must remain vigilant and reaffirm our commitment to protecting this country and its ideals from those who wish to do us harm,” Moran wrote in a a statement.
AP story below:
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An avionics technician from Kansas was arrested Friday as he planned to drive a vehicle full of explosives into a terminal at Wichita’s Mid-Continent Regional Airport, authorities said.
Terry Lee Loewen, 58, was charged with one count each of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, attempting to damage property and attempting to provide support to terrorist group al-Qaida. Authorities said he was trying to support “al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.”
The materials inside the vehicle were “inert” and “at no time was the safety of travelers or members of the public placed in jeopardy,” U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said.
Investigators said Loewen is an avionics technician who lives in Wichita and works at the airport. He had been under investigation for about six months, after he made online statements about wanting to commit “violent jihad” against the U.S. The statements were made in a conversation with an FBI employee unbeknownst to Loewen, Grissom said.
Authorities said they believe Loewen acted alone. No other arrests are expected.
According to court documents, Loewen talked to an undercover agent about downloading online documents about jihad, martyrdom and the “Al Qaeda Manual.” He frequently expressed his admiration of Anwar Al-Awlaki, the American-born al-Qaida leader who was killed in a 2011 drone strike in Yemen. Al-Awlaki emerged as an influential preacher among militants living in the West, with his English language Internet sermons calling for jihad, or holy war, against the U.S.
Authorities said Loewen spent months studying the airport’s layout, flight patterns and other details to maximize fatalities and damage. During that time, he developed a plan along with undercover FBI agents to use his access card to airport grounds and eventually thrust the vehicle loaded with explosives into the terminal.
He planned to die in the explosion, a fate that he said was inevitable after convincing himself to become a martyr in a jihad against America, according to court documents.
He was arrested about 5:40 a.m. as tried to enter the airport tarmac and deliver a vehicle loaded with what he believed to be high explosives, Grissom said.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback joined the U.S. attorney at the news conference to announce the charges.
“In the ongoing war on terrorism, the good guys won one today,” Brownback said.
Wichita Mid-Continent Airport had 68 scheduled commercial flights on Friday, according to flight tracking site FlightAware.com.