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US indicts Kenyan man for planning 9/11-style terrorist attack on American skyscraper

US indicts Kenyan man for planning 9/11-style terrorist attack on American skyscraper
A Kenyan national, allegedly linked to the Al-Shabaab terrorist group, has been charged with planning to fly an airplane into an American skyscraper in a repeat of the 9/11 attacks, the US Department of Justice has said.

The indicted man, identified as Cholo Abdi Abdullah, spent several years training to become a pilot in the Philippines as part of the plot, eventually obtaining the license, according to US officials.

During this time, the 30-year-old was allegedly researching ways to hijack a commercial airliner, studying security on flights and how to gain access to the pilot's cabin.

Abdullah also showed interest in information on the tallest buildings in major US cities and ways to obtain an American visa, a statement by the Attorney's Office said. 

The suspect had been receiving orders from the same Al-Shabaab commander – who was responsible for an attack on a hotel in Kenya's capital, Nairobi, last year, in which 21 people were killed – it added. Al-Shabaab is an Al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group, active in Somalia and elsewhere in East Africa.

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Abdullah was arrested in the Philippines last summer and transferred to the US earlier this month.

“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,” said Audrey Strauss, acting US Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

The Kenyan was charged with six counts of terrorist-related offenses. If convicted, he could face between 20 years to life in prison.

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According to the US Attorney's office, Abdullah's thwarted plot and the hotel attack in Nairobi were part of an Al-Shabaab operation in response to the US decision to move its embassy in Israel from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem, a move that angered many Muslims.

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