WASHINGTON – Federal authorities have charged a Somali national with plotting to blow up a Columbus, Ohio, shopping mall and for supporting Al Qaeda.
Nuradin M. Abdi (search) has been indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly providing material support to Al Qaeda and other charges, according to court documents and Justice Department officials. He is accused of plotting to blow up the mall with Iyman Faris (search).
"The American heartland was targeted for death and destruction by an Al Qaeda cell, which allegedly included a Somali immigrant who will now face justice," Attorney General John Ashcroft said in announcing the unsealing of the grand jury's four-count indictment during a press conference Monday.
The charges against Abdi, who has been in custody since November on immigration-related violations, were handed up by the grand jury last Thursday.
According to court documents, while living in the United States, Abdi went on April 27, 1999, to get travel documents and falsely said that he intended to visit Germany and Saudi Arabia for the purpose of "Umrah" and to visit a relative. Actually, according to the government, he was going to Ethiopia to get military-style training in preparation for violent jihad.
Abdi is accused of seeking training in radio usage, guns, guerilla warfare and bombs.
He is also charged with fraud and misuse of documents by claiming that he had been granted valid asylum status in the United States. Prosecutors said he obtained that refugee document under false pretenses.
There also is one count each of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and conspiracy to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, in this case Al Qaeda.
According to the court documents filed by the government, Abdi received bomb-making instructions as part of this plot. Abdi is accused of traveling from Africa to the United States in March 2000 using a fraudulently obtained immigration document. He was then picked up at the Columbus airport by Faris, a truck driver based in Ohio.
Faris pleaded guilty on May 1, 2003, to providing material support to Al Qaeda (search) and for conspiracy for providing Usama bin Laden's terror network with information about possible U.S. targets for attack. He's serving a 20-year federal sentence.
Faris, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Kashmir, admitted plotting to sever the cables supporting the Brooklyn Bridge in New York and to derail trains in New York or Washington.
Neither of those plots came to fruition.
He admitted to traveling to a training camp in Afghanistan where he was introduced to bin Laden.
Faris had received instructions from top Al Qaeda leader Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (search) for what might have been a second wave of attacks to follow those of Sept. 11, 2001, investigators say. Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the hijackings, is in U.S. custody at an undisclosed overseas location.
Asa Hutchison, the U.S. customs and border control chief, said immigration violation rules provided the framework for this get.
"They're essential to enforce if we're going to protect America," Hutchison said, adding that the U.S. Visit (search) foreigner tracking system is what helped nab Abdi.
"We know our enemies will go to great lengths to lie in wait and to achieve the death and destruction they desire, if at all possible," Ashcroft said. "Material support of terrorists is a serious crime that puts the lives of innocent people at risks and endangers our security … We will remain vigilant in detecting and disrupting such plots."
Fox News' Liza Porteus and Anna Stolley contributed to this report.