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Guilty plea set for airline mechanic Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani in Miami jetliner sabotage

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Posted at 9:23 AM, Dec 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-18 09:23:40-05

MIAMI (AP) -- A longtime airline mechanic with some links to Muslim extremists is set to plead guilty Wednesday to sabotaging a jetliner with 150 people aboard, causing the pilot to abort the flight just before takeoff at Miami International Airport.

Court records show Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani will appear at an afternoon change of plea hearing in Miami federal court. He previously pleaded not guilty although he admitted to investigators that he committed the sabotage, insisting it was an attempt to gain overtime to fix the American Airlines jet.

Alani, 60, is a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Iraq. Prosecutors say he has a brother in Iraq who may be involved with the Islamic State extremist group and that he had made statements wishing Allah would use "divine powers" to harm non-Muslims.

Investigators said Alani also had Islamic State videos on his phone depicting mass murders and that he traveled to Iraq in March but did not disclose that to the FBI after his arrest.

Alani is not charged with any terrorism-related crime, however. He is charged with attempted destruction of an aircraft, which carries a maximum 20-year prison sentence.

Court documents show the sabotage involved gluing Styrofoam inside the nose of the Boeing 737 so that it disabled a component pilots use to monitor such things as airspeed and the pitch of the plane. Authorities say if the flight had taken off as planned July 17 for Nassau, Bahamas, the sabotage could have caused a crash.

Much of Alani's actions that day were captured on surveillance video and he was identified by fellow workers.