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Psych Exam For Accused Terrorist

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 should be sent to the facility has been sealed.

Federal investigators say Abdi, a 32-year-old Somali native, bragged that blowing up an Ohio shopping center was his goal.

But no specific mall was targeted. No explosives were in hand. And it is unclear that the alleged terrorist had the wherewithal to do it.

A four-count indictment, returned by a grand jury in Columbus, Ohio, charges that Abdi conspired with al Qaeda member Iyman Faris and others to detonate a bomb at the unidentified shopping mall after he obtained military-style training in Ethiopia. Faris is now imprisoned for never-acted-on plans to sabotage the Brooklyn Bridge.

"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,"


But the portrait painted of Abdi by the government is in sharp contrast to the one offered by his family, who insist he is innocent and describe a man who hated terrorists.

Abdi, who operated a small cell phone business, loved his new freedoms and never spoke out against the U.S. government, said his brother Mohamed AbdiKarani, 17. Abdi has a son and daughter and his wife is pregnant.

"He loved it here. He never had as much freedom. He said it's good to raise his kids here," AbdiKarani said. "He really hated terrorists. You know how (President George) Bush hates terrorists? I think he hates them more."

Abdi was also charged with fraud and misuse of documents by claiming that he had been granted valid asylum status in the United States. In fact, prosecutors say, he obtained that refugee document under false pretenses.

If convicted on all charges, Abdi could be sentenced to up to 80 years in prison and fined $1 million.

According to U.S. immigration records, Abdi first entered the United States in 1995, lived for a time in Canada, and then returned to the United States in August 1997. Abdi was granted asylum in America as a refugee in January 1999 after giving false information to immigration officials, the government charges.

Later that year, he used that refugee status to apply for a travel document by falsely claiming he was planning to visit Germany and the Muslim holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

In fact, prosecutors say, Abdi used the document to travel to Ethiopia to obtain "military-style training in preparation for violent jihad." The training included guns, guerrilla warfare, bombs and radio usage.

Court papers allege that the plot dated to March 2000 when Abdi returned from the training camp in Ethiopia to join Faris in Columbus.

Last May, Faris pleaded guilty to plotting to topple New York's Brooklyn Bridge on orders from al Qaeda. He admitted to providing sleeping bags, cell phones and cash to terrorists, and was subsequently convicted of providing material support to terrorism and conspiracy to provide material support. He is now serving a 20-year sentence at a federal prison in Florence, Colo.

The indictment mentions "other co-conspirators" besides Faris, but Justice Department officials would not say how many allegedly were involved.

AbdiKarani said Abdi was friends with Faris because they attended the same mosque. Columbus is home to more than 30,000 Somalis, the second-largest Somali community in the United States, after Minneapolis.

Abdi was arrested at his apartment Nov. 28, the day after the Thanksgiving holiday when malls across America were crowded with shoppers. He was held at first on immigration violations, authorities said.

According to the Detroit Free Press, Abdi was ordered deported by a federal judge in March. He did not contest his deportation, meaning the U.S. had 90 days to carry out the move. That period ended last week.

Abdi, his feet and hands shackled, appeared distracted during a hearing Monday before a federal magistrate. He alternately twisted around in his chair and smiled at spectators and U.S. marshals, then stared at the table in front of him. He placed his forehead on the table as the magistrate read him his rights.

Abdi's mother, Nadifa Hassan, expressed concern about her son's health, saying he was withdrawn when she visited him in jail about a month ago. She said she heard her son likely would be deported.

"He's very sick," she said through a translator while surrounded by friends at Columbus' Somali Community Association. "When I saw him last time he wasn't talking at all. I feel pain inside, the way he looked like that."

"I know my son, that he's not a terrorist," she said.

Investigators say Abdi had no explosives materials and no detailed plan for the mall attack, CBS News Correspondent Jim Stewart reports.

That would make it similar to several other post-Sept. 11 al Qaeda plots in the United States that appeared rushed and ill-prepared, like gang member Jose Padilla's alleged dirty bomb plan and Richard Reid's foiled attempt to set off a shoe bomb aboard a transatlantic flight.

The alleged Abdi plot also fits with one of the FBI's greatest terrorist fears: that an attack on a mall could cost many lives and cause enormous economic damage.

The FBI has warned al Qaeda might shift away from trying to hit tightly guarded installations, such as government buildings or nuclear plants, to more vulnerable targets such as malls, apartment buildings or hotels.

The Justice Department last month said they were worried about an imminent attack this summer and asked for help finding seven alleged terrorist operatives.

In May, a Tanzanian man who entered the United States illegally was charged with making a phony terror threat on a Los Angeles shopping mall, the FBI said.

Jamilla Hassan, 39, a cousin of Abdi's, said she hopes the charges are a mistake. Abdi was like any immigrant who escaped the clan-based war in Somalia, looking for a better life, Hassan said.

"He was another good American," she said.

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