A 58-year-old airport worker was charged Friday with allegedly planning a suicide bombing at a passenger terminal at the Wichita Mid-Continent Airport in Kansas.
Sedgwick County Sheriff
Terry Lee Loewen
The suspect, Terry Lee Loewen, an avionics technician who lives in Wichita, was arrested earlier in the day as he attempted to use his security pass to drive a vehicle that he thought contained explosives onto the tarmac at the airport, law enforcement officials said at a news conference in Wichita. In fact, the car contained only dummy explosives.
U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said Loewen spent months developing a plan to drive a carload of explosives to the airport terminal and that he was determined to trigger the bomb himself and die in the blast.
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.
If convicted on all counts, he faces a maximum penalty of life in prison.
Investigators tell NBC News that Loewen had 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.
Officials say no one else was involved in the plot.
Wichita Mid-Continent Airport, about 7 miles west of downtown Wichita, is the largest and busiest airport in Kansas.
NBC News' Mike Brunker and Mike Kosnar contributed to this report.
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First published December 13 2013, 10:47 AM