A Wichita man has been arrested and charged in federal court for attempting to blow up Mid-Continent Airport in a suicide bombing Friday.
Terry Lee Loewen, 58, who worked at the Hawker Beechcraft Services facility at Mid-Continent Airport, is alleged to have spent months developing a plan to use his airport access card 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, U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said.
The explosives were fake, Grissom said.
Click here to read the complaint
Loewen has been under investigation by the Wichita Joint Terrorism Task Force since early summer. He allegedly made statements that he was resolved to commit an act of violent jihad against the United States.
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.
* Talked about his commitment to trigger the device and martyr himself.
"The threat was real," said Michael Kaste of the Federal Bureau of Investigations. "But I assure you, the public was never at any risk at all."
Loewen, who is not believed to be involved with any religious affiliation in the Wichita community, was arrested at 5:40 a.m.
He faces one count of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction against people and property within the United States, one court of attempting to damage property by means of an explosive and one count of attempting to provide material support to Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.
In a 21-page complaint filed in federal court, documents found that Loewen engaged in an online conversation with an undercover FBI agent to reflect his "desire to engage in violent jihad on behalf of al Qaeda."
Lowen wrote, "Brothers like Osama bin Laden and Anwar al Awlaki are a great inspiration to me, but I must be willing to give up everything (like they did) to truly feel like a obedient slave of Allah." He went on to say "I MUST be active in some kind of jihad to feel I'm doing something proactive for the Ummah."
In October, Loewen sent numerous photographs of his airport access badge, entrance gates to the tarmac and devices used to access the gates. He told the undercover agent he felt a morning attack at the airport would be best.
In November, Loewen met with a second undercover agent, agreeing to purchase a component that would be used to detonate the explosive. The two agreed to use a car bomb, and started assembling the device two days before the planned attack.
Loewen and the undercover agent met at a Wichita hotel Friday morning, drove to the location of where the bomb was being stored, the complaint read. The two arrived at Mid-Continent Airport at 5:40 a.m., where Loewen was arrested after two attempts at opening the gate to the tarmac.
In a letter to family members dated December 11, 2013, Loewen said,
"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. My only explaination is that I believe in jihad for that sake of Allah + for the sake of my Muslim brothers +sisters. Fact is, most Muslims in this country will condemn what I have done. I expect to be called a terrorist (which I am), a psychopath, and a homicidal maniac."
Loewen made his first appearance in federal court on terrorism charges at 3 p.m. U.S. attorneys will present the case to a grand jury for indictment next Wednesday.
Loewen will return to court Friday, Dec. 20.
If convicted, Loewen would face a maximum penalty of life in federal prison.
No additional arrests are expected at this time.
Beechcraft released a statement saying Loewen is suspended from employment pending the outcome of the investigation.
"The company is working closely with federal authorities as they complete their investigation," the release said.
Gov. Sam Brownback was in Wichita for Friday afternoon's news conference.
"The good guys won one today," Brownback said.
Congressman Mike Pompeo released the following statement:
“My deepest thanks for the dedication and hard work of our intelligence community in the constant fight to keep Kansans safe. This incident is a stark reminder of the threat we continue to face from radical Islamic terrorism here in the homeland. Threats to the heartland of America from jihadists, sometimes homegrown, are and will continue to be real and we must ensure that our intelligence community has the tools needed to connect the dots worldwide. We can do so while protecting fundamental civil liberties and we must do so with all of the constitutional methods available.”