A former American Airlines mechanic linked to the Islamic State terrorist militant group has plead guilty to attempted destruction of an aircraft.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office, Southern District of Florida, announced in a release that Adbul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani copped “to a single count indictment charging him with attempted destruction of an aircraft.”
Alani, 60, a mechanic then employed by American Airlines at Miami International Airport, tampered with the air data module system of an aircraft scheduled to depart for Nassau, Bahamas — he reportedly glued foam inside a tube in an effort to disable the plane’s navigation systems.
Fortunately, the plane’s warning system averted a take off — the Boeing 737 had 150 passengers at the time and authorities said if the flight had taken off, the sabotage could have caused a crash.
“Passengers and crew members were aboard the aircraft,” the release said. “While number one for taking the departure runway, the flight crew increased power to the aircraft engines in preparation for take-off. This resulted in an error reading by the aircraft’s computer related to the ADM system and the take-off was aborted.”
Alani had previously admitted that he committed the sabotage, claiming he did so to get overtime to fix the American Airlines jet — which he did, according to reports. He never faced any terrorism-related charges.
Airport surveillance video showed Alani unexpectedly working on the aircraft’s nose compartment for seven minutes.
The prosecutors office said Alani, who is currently detained, is set to be sentenced in March of 2020 — he faces a maximum statutory sentence of twenty years in prison.
In addition to having a brother in Iraq suspected of being involved with ISIS, Alani had expressed a desire for Allah to hurt non-Muslims and stored violent Islamic State videos on his cellphone, according to CBS Miami.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Chris M. McAliley told Alani at a pretrial hearing, “You may be very sympathetic to terrorists. That’s very disconcerting.”
The judge called his actions “highly reckless and unconscionable,” denying Alani bail because of his ability to travel abroad frequently and because he might pose a danger to the community.
Attorney Jonathan Meltz, who represents Alani, said his client had led a “law-abiding life” before this incident. Saying Alani never intended to harm anyone, he added that the mechanic was “just trying to provide for his family like most of us try to do.”
A naturalized U.S. citizen from Iraq, Alani had been an airline mechanic for 30 years. He was fired by American Airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration revoked his aircraft mechanic certificate.
“(Alani’s) conduct is not representative of the world-class work performed every day by our 15,000 Technical Operations safety professionals,” American Airlines said in a statement, according to the CBS affiliate. “Safety is the foundation of everything we do, and we know our maintenance team takes that responsibility seriously every day.”
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