A Miami aircraft maintenance worker who allegedly tampered with an American Airlines plane over the summer has possible terrorist ties with the Islamic State, prosecutors said in court Wednesday.
Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani, 60, is being held without bond after a judge ruled that Alani posed a flight risk after prosecutors argued that the mechanic had a brother who was a member of ISIS.
Alani, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Iraq who has worked as an airline mechanic for 30 years, allegedly had ISIS propaganda on his phone, Assistant U.S. Attorney Maria Medetis said. A video depicting people being shot was allegedly sent from his phone. Alani also told the individual he sent the video to that he wanted Allah to cause harm to non-Muslims, prosecutors say.
Two witnesses also told prosecutors that Alani mentioned to them he had a brother who was in ISIS, but gave conflicting accounts according to the prosecutor.
An American Airlines coworker claimed that Alani said he had to go to Iraq to visit a brother who was a member of ISIS, but a roommate alleged Alani said he had to go because his brother was kidnapped.
Investigators found no evidence of the brother being kidnapped on the phone, nor did prosecutors provide evidence of a brother in ISIS.
Alani has not been charged for a terrorism-related crime.
Alani was charged earlier this month with willfully damaging, destroying, disabling or wrecking an aircraft for allegedly tampering with an “air data module” on a passenger plane.
A flight crew noticed an error related to the plane’s system on July 17 and called off an American Airlines flight from Miami to Nassau, Bahamas, with 150 people on board.
Alani allegedly used super glue to attach a piece of foam into an inlet on the air data module, which reports information like an aircraft’s speed, pitch and other data, according to court documents.
An affidavit from a federal air marshal said that Alani tampered with the plane in hopes of obtaining overtime pay.
His attorney Christian Dunham, a federal public defender, said as an experienced mechanic Alani knew the sabotage would keep the aircraft from flying and, even if it did take off, there are redundancies built in that would have kept it safe.
“We don’t think they are going to be able to prove he intentionally put people in danger,” Dunham said. “The plane would have been fine to fly.”
Alani has been fired from his job at the airline and the Federal Aviation Administration recently revoked his certificate as an aircraft mechanic. He is expected to enter a plea at another hearing Friday.