U.S. judge orders man in Wichita airport plot held for trial

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 20, 2013 1:32 PM
U.S. judge orders man in Wichita airport plot held for trial

By Alice Mannette

WICHITA, Kansas (Reuters) - A Kansas man charged with plotting to bomb the Mid-Continent Airport in Wichita, Kansas, is a danger to the community and a flight risk and should be detained until trial, a U.S. magistrate judge ruled on Friday.

Terry Loewen, 58, an aviation technician, appeared in federal court in Wichita before Magistrate Judge Karen Humphreys. Authorities said Loewen had expressed a desire to kill as many people as possible in support of followers of Islam.

"He appears to have been radicalized," Humphreys said. "He expressed deep and committed beliefs in violent Jihad."

Loewen was arrested on December 13 as he tried to drive onto the airport tarmac with a vehicle he thought was loaded with explosives. He had plotted with people he thought were accomplices but who were undercover employees for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, according to a criminal complaint.

Prosecutors said Loewen planned to die in the explosion. He is charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, attempting to damage property by means of an explosive and attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, which prosecutors said was Al Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula. His trial is scheduled for February 18.

Loewen left a letter dated December 11, 2013, for a relative describing his intent to conduct a martyrdom operation timed to cause maximum carnage, according to the complaint.

His letter read in part, "By the time you read this I will - if everything went as planned - have been martyred in the path of Allah."

Loewen's federal public defender, Tim Henry, said investigators set up Loewen and he had no real contact with anyone who wished to do others harm.

"The only person that expressed Jihad with my client was the government," Henry told the judge, arguing that he was not a flight risk and should be on home confinement with electronic monitoring.

Loewen has been married for 16 years, Henry said, and his wife was in the courtroom Friday. He did not speak in the courtroom except to say "yes ma'am," to the judge one time and to confer with his lawyers.

There have been other incidents at U.S. airports in the past two months. On November 1 a gunman attacked security workers at Los Angeles International Airport. In October, a trucking company worker was arrested after he falsely told security at Jacksonville International Airport he had a bomb in a backpack, forcing the airport's evacuation for five hours.

(Reporting by Alice Mannette in Wichita and Kevin Murphy in Kansas City; Editing by Scott Malone and Dan Grebler)