The mechanic accused of sabotaging an American Airlines jetliner back in July was found to have had violent Islamic State videos on his cellphone, as well as desire for Allah to hurt non-Muslims, new evidence unveiled at his bail hearing revealed on Wednesday.
Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani, according to prosecutors, has ties to ISIS through his brother in Iraq.
The 60-year-old Alani was charged earlier this month with willfully damaging or disabling a plane. The Boeing 737, which had 150 passengers and crew aboard, did not take off and no one was injured.
The sabotage involved gluing a piece of Styrofoam inside the nose of the aircraft that effectively disabled a component pilots depend on to gauge such things as airspeed, the pitch of the plane, and so forth. Authorities say the problem was detected just before takeoff, when an error message appeared on a screen in the cockpit and the jet returned to a gate. It had been bound for Nassau, Bahamas.
Airport surveillance video showed Alani working on the aircraft’s nose compartment for seven minutes, even though there was no repair issue with the plane. He was later identified by co-workers from that video.
Federal investigators said he admitted to tampering with a critical navigation component during questioning.
Subsequently, the AP reported on Sept. 6, that Alani had sabotaged the plane allegedly “because he was upset over stalled labor contract negotiations, was fired from another airline several years ago, and briefly had his mechanic’s license suspended.”
New evidence presented by prosecutors in court Wednesday suggests that there was somewhat more to the story. In fact, Islamic extremism could well be the prime motivator for the sabotage.
Other evidence revealed Wednesday including that Alani, 60, recently sent a $700 wire transfer to someone in Iraq — where he has extended family — and that he traveled to Iraq in March but did not disclose that to authorities after his arrest.
Prosecutors also presented evidence that Alani has a brother in Iraq who may be involved with the Islamic State extremist group as well as statements Alani made about wishing Allah would use “divine powers” to harm non-Muslims. Alani had videos on his cellphone depicting Islamic State mass murders he shared with others, according to prosecutors.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Chris McAliley ordered pretrial detention for Alani at the hearing in Miami federal court.
“You may be very sympathetic to terrorists,” Judge McAliley told Alani at the hearing. “That’s very disconcerting.”
Alani was born in Iraq and became a U.S. citizen in 1992. He has “worked as an airline mechanic for 30 years, with no prior criminal record,” the AP notes. Alani told FBI agents after his arrest that, “Out of my evil side, I wanted to do something.”
Alani, who has not yet been charged with a terror-related crime, faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted of the charge of “willfully damaging, destroying or disabling” an aircraft used in commercial aviation.