A Wichita, Kan. man was arrested Friday for attempting to use of a weapon of mass destruction at the local airport.
Terry Lee Loewen, a 58-year-old convert to Islam, had discussed plans with an FBI agent online to wage “jihad,” according to an FBI report, published by the Wichita Eagle. The plan included a suicide bomb plot at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport.
FBI agents based out of Kansas City began conducting surveillance on Loewen in May. They obtained passport and address records for Loewen, who was employed as an aviation mechanic for a company that contracts with the airport.
The 21-page FBI report published upon Loewen’s arrest details interactions between the alleged would-be terrorist and two FBI agents posing as members of al-Qaida.
“Brothers like Osama bin Laden and Anwar al Awlaki are a great inspiration to me, but I must be willing to give up everything (like they did) to truly feel like a obedient [sic] slave of Allah (swt),” wrote Loewen in correspondence with an undercover FBI agent on August 8th.
Al-Awlaki was an al-Qaida leader and radical cleric who was killed in 2011 by a drone in Yemen.
“Aiding the mujahdeen [sic] is pretty low stress for me,” wrote Loewen on August 27. “It’s always something l’ve wanted to do but you just can’t walk up to any Muslim and ask — I don’t know that even they would’t [sic] turn me in.”
Loewen called the fledgling plan “exciting, but scary.”
Loewen communicated with the agents through the fall and began ramping up plans for an attack at Wichita’s airport, which they called the “rental property” in online communication.
“I believe the potential for me doing more is staggering,” wrote Loewen on September 6. “I have some rough ideas, but I know nothing about explosives. Don’t you think with my access to the airport that I should put that to good use?”
The final leg of the plot took place early Friday morning, according to the FBI’s report. An FBI agent picked up Loewen at a nearby hotel, and the two drove to the location where the bomb was being stored.
After wiring the device, Loewen and the FBI agent departed for Wichita Mid-Continent Airport. After arriving, Loewen attempted to use an ID badge that had been disabled. At that point, he was taken into custody.
Loewen left a note for family members, according to the FBI report. “By the time you read this I will — if everything went as planned — have been martyred in the path of Allah,” he wrote. “There will have been an event at the airport which I am responsible for. The operation was timed to cause maximum carnage + death.”
U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom emphasized that the weapon was inert, meaning that Loewen could not have detonated it.
“There was no breach of Mid-Continent’s Airport’s security,” said Grissom in a statement. “At no time was the safety of travelers or members of the public placed in jeopardy.”
“Lone wolves, home-grown violent extremists remain a very serious threat to our nation’s security,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Michael Kaste. “Today’s arrest emphasizes the continual need for the public to remain vigilant as law enforcement relies on the public’s assistance.”
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