WICHITA, Kan. — 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 say Terry Lee Loewen planned to attack Wichita’s Mid-Continent Airport in a plot aimed at supporting al-Qaida.
Loewen, 58, an avionics technician who worked at the airport for Hawker Beechcraft, was arrested as he tried to drive onto the tarmac. The materials in the car were inert, and no one at the airport was in any 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 U.S. interests.
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Authorities said Loewen spent months studying the layout of the airport, its flight patterns and other details to maximize deaths 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 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.
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.
His wife and attorney declined to comment after the hearing.
His brother-in-law, David Reddig, described Loewen as a “good guy.” He said Loewen helped him pay off the debt on his truck and took care of his home and chickens after an eye injury kept him from working.
Loewen was charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, attempting to damage property and attempting to provide support to terrorist group al-Qaida.
Hawker Beechcraft spokeswoman Nicole Alexander confirmed that Loewen worked at the company’s aircraft-maintenance facility at the airport.