WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man who prosecutors say sympathized with violent terrorists was arrested Friday as part of an FBI sting after he drove a vehicle loaded with what he thought were explosives to a Wichita airport.
Investigators allege that Terry Lee Loewen planned to attack Wichita’s Mid-Continent Regional airport in a plot aimed at supporting al-Qaida.
Loewen, a 58-year-old avionics technician who worked at the airport for Hawker Beechcraft, was arrested before dawn as he tried to drive onto the tarmac. The materials in the car were inert, and no one at the airport was in any immediate danger, authorities said.
Loewen, who lives in Wichita, had been under investigation for about six months after making online statements about wanting to commit “violent jihad” against the United States, U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said. An undercover FBI agent befriended Loewen, striking up conversations about terrorism and Loewen’s admiration for those who plotted against American interests.
Authorities said Loewen spent months studying the layout of the airport, its flight patterns and other details to maximize fatalities and damage in an attack. During that time, he developed a plan with other conspirators to use his employee access card to pull off the attack. The conspirators were actually undercover FBI agents.
Loewen planned to die in the explosion, a fate that he said was inevitable in his quest to become a martyr in a jihad against America, according to court documents.
“Since early summer, he was resolved to take an act of violent jihad against U.S.,” Grissom said.
Authorities said they believe Loewen acted alone. No other arrests were expected.
Loewen made an initial court appearance Friday afternoon, answering “yes” in a strong voice to procedural questions. A U.S. magistrate ordered that he remain jailed at least until a hearing next Friday after prosecutors said he was a flight risk and a danger to the community.