Law enforcement officials identified the suspect as Terry L. Loewen, 58, a U.S. citizen and a former aviation technician at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport in Kansas. Lowen was arrested as he tried to deliver the vehicle full of explosives on the tarmac.
During a press conference on Friday afternoon, U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said Loewen spent months plotting the alledge attack, and planned to use his employee access card to the airport to drive explosive devices into the terminal. Federal prosecutors said Friday morning's arrest came after a six-month investigation into the former airport employee's intention for mass murder.
Terry Loewen told undercover FBI agents that he wanted to "die in the explosion as a martyr'' for Al Qaeda.
According to the criminal complaint Loewen's plans to "to engage in violent jihad on behalf of al Qaeda" were discovered during online conversations with an undercover FBI agent. In e-mails sent in August, Loewen 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"
Loewen is charged with one count each of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, attempting to damage property and attempting to provide support to terrorist group al-Qaeda.
FBI officials say no one was ever in any real danger. The operation was reportedly a sting and the explosives weren't real.
If convicted, Loewen faces life in prison.
During Friday's press conference, FBI spokesperson, Michael Kaste said the arrest emphasizes that homegrown terrorism is a continuing threat in the United States.
However, in the 12 years since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on American soil, critics have increasingly voiced concerns about some of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the FBI’s tactics employed during stings similar to the Wichita case.
Critics say the FBI’s tactics amount to entrapment, with agents seeking out potential "would be terrorists" and supplying bomb materials and other means to carry out plots. When the coerced individual attempts to carry out a plot, the FBI steps in and takes full credit for foiling the plot.
Attorney Steve Dowds is keeping track of cases in which he argues that the U.S. government is systematically targeting those whom officials deem predisposed to commit crimes, before an actual crime is committed. In several cases, without FBI advice and provided weapons to carry out an attack, the suspects lack the means to carry out the attacks alone.
Therefore, civil rights advocates argue that often the lone wolf terrorist has a co-conspirator - not al-Qaeda but rather the federal government.