Federal prosecutors in New York have indicted a man who they say took direction from a “senior al-Shabab commander” and went to flight school in the Philippines so he could hijack a commercial airliner. They say the man also sought information “about the tallest building in a major U.S. city.”
The indictment, unsealed Wednesday, charges Cholo Abdi Abdullah with six counts which include multiple counts of providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization, conspiracy to commit aircraft piracy and conspiracy to kill U.S. citizens.
Prosecutors allege Abdi Abdullah attended a flight school from 2017 and 2019 in the Philippines and obtained training, “ultimately completing the tests necessary to obtain his pilot’s license.”
They say he also allegedly researched how he could hijack a commercial airliner and breach a cockpit door, and sought “information about the tallest building in a major U.S. city, and information about how to obtain a U.S. visa.”
The charging documents say that Abdi Abdullah has been in the custody of law enforcement authorities in the Philippines since July 1, 2019 and he is arriving in New York to face charges in the custody of the FBI and New York Police Department.
In federal court this afternoon Abdullah told the judge, “I plead not guilty to all the counts.”
He has been ordered detained pending trial and his attorney said they reserve the right to ask for bail in the future.
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SOURCE: NBC News, Jonathan Dienst and Tom Winter