Somali charged in al Qaeda mall bombing plot
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A Somali in immigration custody in Cincinnati has been indicted in an alleged al Qaeda plot to bomb an Ohio shopping mall, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft said Monday.
"Now, current credible intelligence indicates that al Qaeda wants to hit the United States, to hit the United States hard," Ashcroft said in a news conference at the Justice Department.
"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 identified the Somali as Nuradin M. Abdi, 32, who has been indicted on four charges of providing material support to al Qaeda.
Ashcroft said Abdi had a relationship with Iyman Faris, an Ohio truck driver convicted last year of providing material support to al Qaeda.
"It is alleged that Abdi, along with admitted al Qaeda operative Faris and other co-conspirators, initiated a plot to blow up a Columbus-area shopping mall," Ashcroft said. "It is also alleged that in pursuit of this plot, Abdi received bomb-making instructions from one of those co-conspirators."
In addition to the material support and conspiracy charges, Abdi is charged with two counts of visa fraud. In one case, Abdi said he was traveling to Somalia when he went to a terrorist training camp in Ethiopia, Ashcroft said.
"Abdi's destination was Ogaden, Ethiopia, to attend a military-style training camp for violent jihad," Ashcroft said. "Abdi allegedly sought training in guns, guerrilla warfare and bombs."
No details on alleged plot
"Defendant Abdi faces a maximum of 30 years in prison on the two material support charges," he said. "The immigration and fraud charges include a terrorism enhancement that makes the maximum sentence on each count 25 years. Each count of the indictment carries a fine of up to $250,000."
Joining Ashcroft at the news conference, Asa Hutchinson, undersecretary for border and transportation at the Department of Homeland Security, said Abdi has been in custody since his arrest November 28 on Thanksgiving weekend.
Ashcroft declined to offer any specifics about the alleged mall bombing plot. "I think it would be inappropriate for us to go beyond the limits of the charging documents and other submissions made to the court in this case, including the detention application," he said.
"We have taken steps in the Columbus area to mitigate this threat. And we believe that the activities of local law enforcement, together with federal authorities, have addressed this matter comprehensibly and successfully."
Truck driver convicted of helping al Qaeda
Federal prosecutors said Faris checked out the chances of destroying a New York bridge and tried to buy equipment for proposed al Qaeda attacks while appearing to be a law-abiding trucker, according to documents unsealed last year in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia.
Faris pleaded guilty in May 2003 to providing material support to al Qaeda and to conspiring to do so, according to the documents. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Sources said that al Qaeda leader Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who is in U.S. custody, told his interrogators the target was the Brooklyn Bridge.