Published December 13, 2013
A Kansas man who authorities say in the past made threats to engage in violent jihad against the U.S. was charged Friday for allegedly plotting to detonate a car bomb at the Wichita Mid-Continent Airport.
Terry L. Loewen, 58, an aviation technician who FBI agents say was inspired by Usama bin Laden, spent months planning the attack and was intent on using his employee access card to drive the vehicle loaded with explosives to a terminal, Barry Grissom, the U.S. Attorney for the district of Kansas, said, citing the criminal complaint. Loewen planned on dying in the explosion as a martyr, Grissom said.
The complaint says an undercover FBI employee told Loewen about a recent trip overseas and a meeting with members of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. This agent told Loewen that "brothers" were interested in his airport access, and asked if he'd be willing to plant "some type of device," the complaint said.
Loewen allegedly responded, "Am I interested? Yes. I still need time to think about it, but I can't imagine anything short of arrest stopping me." The U.S. citizen allegedly wrote to the FBI agent that he was inspired by Usama bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaki.
He was arrested at 5:30 a.m. without incident while trying to gain access to a tarmac, Grissom said. At the time, his access card did not work and he was with the vehicle he allegedly believed was filled with explosives.
Authorities said there was never a bomb that could explode and the public was not in danger.
Loewen has been under investigation by the Wichita Joint Terrorism Task Force since early summer 2013. It is alleged that in the past he has made statements that he was resolved to commit an act of violent jihad.
The affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint alleges that Loewen studied the airport's layout, researched flight schedules, assisted in acquiring car bomb components and talked about sacrificing his own life in the attack.
He faces three federal charges, including attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. If convicted, Loewen faces a life sentence in federal prison.
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.
His wife and attorney declined comment after the hearing.
"This incident is a reminder that we must remain vigilant and reaffirm our commitment to protecting this country and its ideals from those who wish to do us harm," Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., said in a statement.
Authorities said they believe Loewen acted alone. No other arrests are expected.
Wichita Mid-Continent Airport had 68 scheduled commercial flights on Friday, according to flight tracking site FlightAware.com.
Fox News' Jake Gibson and The Associated Press contributed to this report