Man sentenced to 20 years in suicide bomb plot at Kansas airport

Reuters News
Posted: Aug 31, 2015 3:59 PM

By Alice Mannette

WICHITA, Kan. (Reuters) - A man who plotted a suicide car bomb attack at a Wichita, Kansas, airport in 2013 was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison on Monday.

Terry Loewen, 60, had access to secure airport areas because of his work as an avionic technician, according to federal officials, who dubbed the bomb plot an attempted terrorist attack.

He was arrested trying to enter the ramp area of the airport known then as the Wichita Mid-Continent Airport with what he believed was a vehicle loaded with explosives. He had planned to detonate the explosives next to a terminal and die in the blast, according to federal officials. The airport was recently renamed the Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport.

Loewen pleaded guilty to one count of attempt to use a weapon of mass destruction, and entered into a plea agreement reached with prosecutors calling for the 20-year prison sentence, followed by lifetime supervision.

The sentence required the approval of U.S. District Judge Monti Belot, which he granted at a court hearing on Monday.

Charges of attempted use of an explosive and attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization were dropped under the agreement.

Prosecutors said at the time of his arrest that Loewen had proclaimed himself a Muslim and had talked of committing violent jihad on behalf of al Qaeda. Loewen said he was inspired by the teachings of Osama bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaki and had downloaded thousands of pages of information on jihad, according to federal officials.

A joint terrorism task force had Loewen under investigation for months before his arrest. Loewen believed he was working with a member of a Yemen-based militant group and another individual in plotting the bombing, but both were undercover FBI agents, a criminal complaint said.

The agents helped Loewen with construction of the device, which was not active, the complaint said.

In September 2013, Loewen sent photos of airplanes on the ramp at the Wichita airport and commented that he could have “walked over there, shot both pilots ... slapped some C4 on both fuel trucks and set them off before anyone even called TSA,” according to federal officials.

In a statement following his sentencing, Loewen apologized to his family.

"I do not ask for forgiveness because I deserve none," he said.

(Reporting by Alice Mannette; Editing by Carey Gillam and Peter Cooney)