- The Washington Times - Monday, June 14, 2004

A Somali national in custody since November on immigration charges has been indicted by a federal grand jury in an al Qaeda terrorist scheme to blow up a Columbus, Ohio, shopping mall, Attorney General John Ashcroft said yesterday.

Nuradin M. Abdi, 32, was named in a four-count indictment handed up Thursday in U.S. District Court in Columbus on charges of conspiracy, fraud and the misuse of documents claiming he had been granted valid asylum status in the United States. The indictment was unsealed yesterday.

“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,” Mr. Ashcroft said during a Justice Department press conference.

“Current credible intelligence indicates that al Qaeda wants to hit the United States and to hit the United States hard. We know our enemies will go to great lengths to lie in wait and to achieve the death and destruction they desire,” he said. “Unfortunately, some American citizens, as well as others who are given haven here, have chosen to betray our values and to support the terrorists’ goals and plots.”

Department of Homeland Security Undersecretary Asa Hutchinson, who attended the press conference, said Abdi’s indictment demonstrated how important the enforcement and integrity of U.S. immigration laws are in the country’s fight against terrorism.

“Immigration violations, as you know, are serious felonies, but they are essential to enforce if we are going to protect America,” Mr. Hutchinson said. “We continue to be a welcoming nation, and our immigration provisions are there for those who want to lawfully come to the United States.

“But when we see a misuse of the immigration system to support terrorist activity … this is misuse. It is a serious violation that should be pursued,” he said.

According to the indictment, Abdi conspired to set off a bomb at an unidentified Columbus shopping mall with admitted al Qaeda terrorists, including Iyman Faris, who pleaded guilty last year to conspiring to blow up the cables supporting the Brooklyn Bridge in New York and to derail trains in New York City or Washington.

A government motion to keep Abdi in detention said the Somali native returned to the United States from Africa in March 2000 and was met at the Columbus airport by Faris. The motion also noted the Abdi and Faris later met with two other suspected al Qaeda terrorists to discuss the Columbus shopping mall scheme.

The indictment said Abdi concealed his true destination when he applied with U.S. immigration officials on April 27, 1999, for a U.S. travel document. He said he was going to Germany and Saudi Arabia to visit Mecca and relatives, but actually traveled to Ogaden, Ethiopia, “for the purpose of obtaining military-style training in preparation for violent jihad.”

The training included the use of guns, bombs and guerrilla warfare, the indictment said.

“Abdi’s purpose in seeking this training was to ready himself to participate in violent jihad conflicts overseas and to lend support to activities his al Qaeda co-conspirators might ask him to perform here in the United States.,” Mr. Ashcroft said.

Faris, a former Ohio-based truck driver, is serving 20 years in a federal prison for his guilty plea. Neither of the plots to which he admitted his involvement was successful.

Federal authorities said Faris received instructions from top al Qaeda leader Khalid Shaikh Mohammed for what might have been a second wave of attacks to follow those of September 11. Mohammed, the suspected mastermind of the strikes on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, is in U.S. custody at an undisclosed overseas location.

Abdi, if convicted, faces a maximum of 80 years in prison and fines totaling $250,000.

More than 30,000 Somalis live in Columbus, the second-largest Somali community in the United States.

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