Posted on December 13, 2013 by creeping
WASHINGTON—A man has been charged in federal court with attempting to explode a car bomb at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport, Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Carlin and U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom announced today. The defendant was arrested as part of an FBI undercover investigation, and the device used by the defendant was, in fact, inert and at no time posed a danger to the public.
Terry Lee Loewen, 58, of Wichita, Kansas, is charged in a criminal complaint filed today in U.S. District Court in Wichita with one count of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, one count of attempting to damage property by means of an explosive, and one count of attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization.
“There was no breach of Mid-Continent’s Airport’s security,” said U.S. Attorney Grissom. “At no time was the safety of travelers or members of the public placed in jeopardy.”
Loewen, who works as an avionics technician, is alleged to have spent months developing a plan that involved using his access card to airport grounds to drive a van loaded with explosives to the terminal. He planned to pull the trigger on the explosives himself and die in the explosion.
Agents arrested Loewen about 5:40 a.m. Friday after he attempted to enter the airport tarmac and deliver a vehicle loaded with what he believed were high explosives. Members of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) took him into custody without incident.
Loewen has been under investigation by the Wichita Joint Terrorism Task Force since early summer 2013. It is alleged that, prior to his attempted attack, he made statements that he was resolved to commit an act of violent jihad against the United States. Over a period of months, he took a series of actions to advance the plot. According to an affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, Loewen:
- studied the layout of the airport and took photographs of access points;
- researched flight schedules;
- assisted in acquiring components for the car bomb;
- and talked about his commitment to trigger the device and martyr himself.
On Friday, Loewen went to Mid-Continent Airport to detonate the car bomb. He was taken into custody when he attempted to open a security access gate. FBI Evidence Response Teams are executing search warrants related to the case. Although the investigation is ongoing, no additional arrests are anticipated.
“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.”
If convicted, Loewen would face a maximum penalty of life in federal prison.
Loewen, who is white, became radicalized after reading extremist Islamic material on the Internet, Grissom said.
A criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Wichita charges Loewen with one count of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, one count of attempting to damage property by means of an explosive and one count of attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization. He was scheduled to be arraigned at 3 p.m. local time.
Investigators tell NBC News that Loewen has been under scrutiny since August, when he began having an online exchange with someone he thought was a like-minded individual but who turned out to be an FBI employee.
“Let me preface the bottom line by saying I have become ‘radicalized’ in the strongest sense of the word, and I don’t feel Allah wants me any other way,” he said in one message, according to the complaint.
At the news conference, Grissom and Michael Kaste, special agent in charge of the FBI office in Kansas City, stressed that the suspect was under constant surveillance and at no time was the public in danger.
According to the affidavit, the undercover agent was told by the suspect on August 5 this year: ‘As time goes on I care less and less about what other people think of me or my views on Islam.
‘I have been studying subjects like jihad, martyrdom operations and Sharia law.’
He later continued: ‘I feel so guilt-ridden sometimes for knowing what’s required of me but yet doing little or nothing to make it happen.’
In a later message to an undercover officer, according to the affidavit, Loewen said: ‘Brothers like Osama bin Laden and Anwar Al Awlaki are a great inspiration to me…’
The terror suspect later said that he had been studying Al-Awlaki’s methods of jihad and ‘printed out something called the Al Qaeda manual’.
Loewen also told an undercover agent during the online chats of some of the deadly plans he had in mind. He explained his plot in detail, offering a supposed accomplice a tour of the airport and said how he could be the ‘access’ guy.
He wrote: ‘I’m 58 years old and spending my remaining years behind bars for a good reason is not out of the question for me.’
Loewen sent pictures to the undercover agent of what appeared to be fighter jet trainers on the tarmac outside of the hanger where he worked at the airport, according to the affidavit.
The interactions between the suspect and the agent continued to the point of purchasing material that Loewen believed to be capable of creating a bomb.
On Wednesday, the FBI employee made the final preparations on the bomb and Loewen said that he was ‘happy’ with the plan which was set for December 13.
This morning before 5am, Loewen was picked up by his believed accomplice at a local hotel and taken to a location where they had stored the bomb.
The suspect finished wiring the device, believing that it would be ‘operational’, according to the affidavit. They drove to the airport and at a security gate, Loewen tried twice to use his access badge, which was unique to him, to enter the tarmac.
However the gate had been disabled by authorities and Loewen was taken into custody.
In a suicide letter that Loewen wrote for a family member, he wrote, according to the affidavit: ‘By the time you read this I will – if everything went as planned – have been martyred in the path of Allah.
He continued: ‘The operation was timed to cause maximum carnage + death.’
He closed the letter with the words: ‘I expect to be called a terrorist (which I am), a psychopath, and a homicidal maniac’