- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 1, 2005

A federal magistrate in Virginia yesterday ordered terror suspect Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, accused of plotting to kill President Bush, to remain in custody until his as-yet-unscheduled trial on charges of providing material support to al Qaeda.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Liam O’Grady issued the order after a detention hearing in U.S. District Court in Alexandria in which an FBI agent testified that Mr. Abu Ali, 23, of Falls Church, confessed “multiple times” that he had allied with al Qaeda to plot the Bush assassination.

FBI Agent Barry Cole said Mr. Abu Ali also talked with the terrorist network about another September 11-type attack in which “hijackers would board planes in Great Britain and Australia” to fly into “designated targets” in the United States.

The agent said the former graduate of the Islamic Saudi Academy in Alexandria also discussed plans to kill members of Congress and military personnel, and target Navy ships in U.S. ports. Mr. Cole said al Qaeda gave Mr. Abu Ali the choice of becoming part of a martyr operation or establishing a terrorist cell in the United States.

Under the terrorist-cell plan, Mr. Abu Ali would marry “a Christian woman, assimilate into the community and he would be provided operatives,” Mr. Cole said.

Defense attorney John Zwerling called the accusations “preposterous.” During cross-examination, he asked Mr. Cole whether Mr. Abu Ali had been tortured by Saudi officials while in their custody, an accusation Mr. Abu Ali and his family have made several times.

Mr. Cole said he had no information from any credible source that Mr. Abu Ali had been tortured — an accusation denied by the Saudi government.

In ordering Mr. Abu Ali’s continued detention, Magistrate O’Grady said the suspect had indicated in his own words that “he is a grave, grave danger to this community and this nation.”

Mr. Abu Ali was named in a federal grand jury indictment handed up Feb. 3. He is charged with conspiring to assassinate Mr. Bush and providing material support to al Qaeda while a student in Saudi Arabia. He was returned to the United States last month after being held by Saudi officials for 20 months in a bombing in Riyadh that killed 34 persons, including nine Americans.

U.S. Attorney Paul J. McNulty argued in court papers that Mr. Abu Ali represents “an exceptionally grave danger to the community and a serious flight risk.” Mr. McNulty said there was “no condition or combination of conditions that will adequately safeguard the American people or assure the defendant’s appearance for trial.”

The assassination plot, according to the indictment, involved Mr. Abu Ali getting close enough to the president to kill him with a gun or a suicide bomb.

The six-count indictment said Mr. Abu Ali “did knowingly and unlawfully conspire to provide material support and resources … knowing and intending that they were to be used in preparation for, and for carrying out, the assassination of the president of the United States.”

It said he told the co-conspirators that he wanted to become a planner of terrorist operations like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the September 11 attacks, and Mohamed Atta, one of the hijackers.

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