On Friday afternoon, federal officials announced the arrest of Terry Lee Loewen, 58, who was allegedly planning a suicide bomb attack on Mid-Continent Airport in Wichita, Kansas. Loewen, who worked at the airport as an aviation technician, was arrested this morning on charges of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, to damage property with explosives, and to "provide material support and resources" to a terrorist organization. He faces a maximum penalty of life in prison.
According to federal officials on the Wichita Joint Terrorism Task Force, Loewen was arrested after he attempted to use his airport access card to drive a vehicle towards the facility, in order to detonate what he allegedly thought were live explosives. Those explosives, however, were "inert," and his access card failed. Officials did not anticipate arresting anyone else in connection to the plot. Federal officials, working undercover, spoke and met with Loewen for months.
At the press conference, U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said that Loewen, who is white, was radicalized through fundamentalist Islamic propaganda on the internet. According to the criminal complaint Loewen told an undercover agent that he read Inspire magazine, referring to the al Qaeda-associated propaganda publication.
Loewen expressed a desire to "engage in violent jihad on behalf of Al Qaeda," according to the federal complaint filed against Loewen. He provided undercover FBI agents with information on the airport's layout and access, along with information on what time of day would be best to plan an attack, according to the complaint. Speaking online to an FBI agent in August, Loewen said:
Let me get to the bottom line without being too revealing- I have numerous ideas of ways I could perform jihad in the path of Allah but outside du'a, none of them are legal. I'm 58 years old and spending my remaining years behind bars for a good reason is not out of the question for me.
In a letter dated December 11 left to his family, Loewen wrote:
By the time you read this I will-if everything went as planned- have been martyred in the path of Allah. There will have been an event at the airport which I am responsible for. The operation was timed to cause maximum carnage+ death
The full complaint is below:
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.