A Kansas man was arrested on terrorism charges in connection with a plot to blow up a car bomb at Wichita's Mid-Continent Airport, officials announced on Friday.
Terry Lee Loewen, 58, described in a nationally televised news conference as an avionics technician who worked at the airport, was arrested Friday morning driving what he thought was a car bomb.
“By the time you read this I will -- if everything went as planned -- have been martyred in the path of Allah,” Loewen wrote in a letter to a relative that was part of the criminal complaint released by the government. “There will have been an event at the airport which I am responsible for. The operation was timed to cause maximum carnage + death ... My only explanation is that I believe in jihad for the sake of Allah + for the sake of my Muslim brothers + sisters.
"Fact is, most Muslims in this country will condemn what I have done ... I expect to be called a terrorist (which I am), a psychopath and a homicidal maniac," he wrote.
Authorities said the attack was intended to show support of Al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula, a jihadist group that the United States has already identified as a terrorist operation.
At no time did the car have real explosives in it, U.S. Atty. Barry Grissom told reporters.
"There was no breach of Mid-Continent Airport's security," he said. "At no time was the safety of travelers or members of the public placed in jeopardy."
Loewen was arrested at 5:42 a.m. while trying to use his security badge on a card reader to gain access through a gate. He is charged 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.
If convicted, Loewen faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.
At the news conference, officials praised the cooperation among various local, state and federal agencies which joined together to investigate the incident. Officials said Loewen acted alone and there was no indication that he had ties to any local Muslim group.
"Lone wolves -- homegrown violent extremists -- remain a very serious threat to our nation's security," FBI Special Agent in Charge Michael Kaste said. "Today's arrest emphasizes the continual need for the public to remain vigilant as law enforcement relies on the public's assistance."
Loewen had been under investigation for about six months after he made statements about wanting to commit "violent jihad" against the United States. Some of those statements were in the form of emails exchanged with a person who turned out to be an undercover FBI operative.
In their exchange, Loewen appears to become more disillusioned, writing at one point: "I believe the Muslim who is labeled 'a radical fundamentalist' is closer to Allah than the ones labeled 'moderates.'"
The FBI operative offers to introduce Loewen to "someone who could help him engage in violent jihad."
During their exchange, Loewen speaks highly of Osama bin Laden and of Anwar Awlaki, one of the leaders of the Al Qaeda group on the Arabian Peninsula.
Eventually Loewen was put in contact with another FBI employee who helped him put together what he thought was a car bomb.
According to the complaint, the second FBI employee met Loewen at approximately 4:45 a.m. on Friday at a local hotel. The pair drove to the location where the putative bomb was being stored. Loewen, unaware that the bomb was filled with inert material rather than explosives, finished wiring the device and at about 5:15 a.m., they drove together to the airport.
Loewen arrived at the gate where he had last tested his badge two days ago, but he was denied entry and arrested.