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Crime and Courts

Loewen Admits Plotting Suicide Bomb Attack At Kansas Airport

Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office

A Wichita man accused in 2013 of trying to drive a bomb onto the tarmac at the former Mid-Continent Airport today changed his plea to guilty. KMUW's Aileen LeBlanc reports...  

A former avionics technician admitted Monday to plotting a suicide bomb attack at a Wichita airport. Terry L. Loewen pleaded guilty to attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, after striking a deal with prosecutors for a proposed 20-year sentence.

It is up to U.S. District Judge Monti Belot whether to accept the agreement. If the judge does not, Loewen would be allowed to withdraw his plea. Belot took it under advisement, but told Loewen he was "almost certain" to accept the proposed sentence.

Sentencing is set for Aug. 31.

The 59-year-old Wichita man was arrested in December 2013 after authorities said he tried to bring a van filled with inert explosives onto the tarmac at Wichita's Mid-Continent Airport, now called the Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport. His arrest was the culmination of a monthslong sting operation in which two FBI agents posed as co-conspirators.

Prosecutors argued in court filings that Loewen was "well on his way" to becoming a violent terrorist before authorities began investigating him. His defense team early on raised the issue of possible government entrapment, but defense efforts to get charges dismissed or evidence thrown out failed.

Loewen had been charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, attempting to use an explosive device to damage property and attempting to give material support to al-Qaida.

As part of the plea deal, prosecutors typically drop any remaining charges at his sentencing. Without a plea deal, the remaining charge carries a potential life sentence.

Prosecutors alleged in court filings that Loewen planned to set off a bomb aimed at inflicting "maximum carnage" that would have killed and injured hundreds of people during the busy holiday travel season. The final plan was to detonate the device between terminals in an attack during which Loewen would die.