Kenyan National Charged With Terrorism, Connected to Al-Shabaab

Faye Higbee
kenyan national

Kenyan National Cholo Abdi Abdullah was arrested in the Philippines in 2019. But on Wednesday of this week, he was returned to the US, and indicted by the US Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York for numerous terrorism charges. One of the six charges had a familiar ring to it: receiving pilot training for the purpose of ramming a plane into an American building. He acted as an operative of the terror group al-Shabaab.

Abdullah, 30, was charged with six terror-related crimes: “conspiring to provide and providing material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, conspiring to murder Americans, to commit aircraft piracy, to destroy aircraft, and to commit acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries. (USAO, SDNY)

When arrested in the Philippines in 2019, the Kenyan national was in possession of an IED, a hand grenade, and a weapon.

Planning a 9-11 style attackVia the US Attorney’s Office

The charges in the Indictment unsealed today arise out of a coordinated scheme by the terrorist organization Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen, commonly known as “al Shabaab,” to target Americans both at home and abroad.  Al Shabaab, which has sworn allegiance to al Qaeda and serves as al Qaeda’s principal wing in East Africa, is responsible for numerous deadly terrorist attacks, including attacks that have claimed American lives.  Recently, al Shabaab has embarked on a string of terrorist attacks as part of an operation purportedly in response to the United States’ decision to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, which the group has dubbed “Operation Jerusalem Will Never be Judaized.”  In particular, these terrorist attacks perpetrated by al Shabaab include an attack on January 15, 2019 at a hotel in Nairobi, Kenya, which resulted in the deaths of approximately 21 people, including a U.S. national and survivor of al Qaeda’s 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center in New York, New York; a September 30, 2019 attack on a U.S. military facility in Somalia; and a January 5, 2020 attack on another U.S. facility in Kenya, in which three Americans were killed.   

As alleged in the Indictment, ABDULLAH was an al Shabaab operative who participated in a plot to hijack commercial aircraft and crash them into a building in the United States.  Beginning in 2016, at the direction of a senior al Shabaab commander who was responsible for, among other things, planning the 2019 Nairobi hotel attack, ABDULLAH traveled to the Philippines and enrolled in a flight school there (the “Flight School”), for the purpose of obtaining training for carrying out the 9/11-style attack.  Between 2017 and 2019, ABDULLAH attended the Flight School on various occasions and obtained pilot’s training, ultimately completing the tests necessary to obtain his pilot’s license. 

While ABDULLAH was obtaining pilot training at the Flight School, he also conducted research into the means and methods to hijack a commercial airliner to conduct the planned attack, including security on commercial airliners and how to breach a cockpit door from the outside, information about the tallest building in a major U.S. city, and information about how to obtain a U.S. visa.

US Attorney’s Office, SDNY

The Kenyan national is a member of al-Shabaab, which is an affiliate of al-Qaeda. As we have reported numerous times, they conduct bombings, kidnappings, killing whoever is in their path in Africa. Recently US airstrikes killed 8 of their bomb makers, and wounded two others.


Featured photo: Philippine mugshot of Cholo Abdi Abdullah

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