COLUMBUS, Ohio – A federal magistrate on Wednesday ordered a man charged with plotting to blow up a shopping mall to be transferred to a federal psychiatric facility to determine if he is mentally competent.
The evidence Magistrate Mark Abel used to determine why Nuradin Abdi (search) should be sent to the facility has been sealed.
Authorities have accused Abdi, 32, of plotting to blow up a mall with admitted Al Qaeda (search) member Iyman Faris (search), who is now imprisoned for never-acted-on plans to sabotage the Brooklyn Bridge.
The indictment against Abdi, a Somali national, was unsealed on Monday.
More than 100 supporters gathered outside the courthouse, and family and friends planned to talk to reporters about the charges against Abdi after the detention hearing.
Authorities have a third suspect under surveillance and are trying to determine how many others might have been involved, U.S. Attorney Gregory Lockhart said.
"I don't know that we know at this point know who all the people he (Abdi) was associated with are," Lockhart said. "There are people that we are proactively doing things with as we speak that are short of charging them."
The Joint Terrorism Task Force (search) searched the Columbus apartment last week of the third suspect, The Columbus Dispatch reported Wednesday, citing unidentified federal sources. The man shared the apartment with Faris, the newspaper said. Federal officials have refused to say what they were seeking.
Abdi is charged with providing material support to Al Qaeda, conspiracy and document fraud. If convicted, he could get up to 80 years in prison.
"What we know about him is unlike how he is portrayed," said Ahmad Al-Akhras, president of the Ohio office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (search).
The group's leaders questioned the evidence and the timing of the announcement of charges against Abdi, noting that the FBI has dropped charges accusing others of terrorism.
"This may be one of the cases also that may not have enough evidence or there's no evidence at all," Al-Akhras said.
The FBI can't discuss evidence against Abdi before trial, said James Turgal, Cincinnati-based FBI spokesman.
"Judging this particular set of facts based on other cases is inappropriate," he said.