Image: Nuradin Mahamoud Abdi
AP
Nuradin Mahamoud Abdi, a Somali immigrant arrested in 2004, was accused of plotting with a convicted al-Qaida terrorist to blow up a Columbus, Ohio, mall the day after Thanksgiving 2003.
updated 7/31/2007 8:32:40 PM ET 2007-08-01T00:32:40

A Somali immigrant the government says plotted to blow up an Ohio shopping mall pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiring to provide material support to terrorists.

Nuradin Abdi, 35, entered his plea before U.S. District Judge Algenon Marbley a week before his trial had been expected to start Aug. 6.

“In this climate an American jury, we felt, could potentially find him guilty because of all this negative stuff that’s coming in, and if they found him guilty he was looking at spending the rest of his life in custody,” said Abdi’s attorney, Mahir Sherif. “The government came back with another offer, so he decided to take it.”

Under a plea deal, Abdi is expected to receive a 10-year sentence on the count, which carries a maximum penalty of 15 years. Three other charges were dropped and he will be deported after serving his sentence.

The Justice Department accused Abdi of suggesting the plan to attack an unidentified Columbus shopping mall during an August 2002 meeting with now-convicted al-Qaida terrorist Iyman Faris and a third suspect, Christopher Paul. The suspected plot was never carried out.

Abdi testified under oath that he talked with Faris and Paul at a coffee shop in suburban Columbus where he suggested they “plan to detonate a bomb in a shopping mall to avenge U.S. policy and military action in Afghanistan,” according to a statement of facts submitted by the government during Tuesday’s hearing.

An attorney for Abdi said Abdi was acknowledging only that he made that statement under oath, not that the conversation regarding the attack actually happened.

“He’s never said that that conversation actually occurred during this plea agreement, he’s just saying that he said that in immigration hearings,” another defense attorney, Aurora Bewicke, said after the hearing. “He’s not said that the conversation happened or that there was any plans to hurt any Americans.”

Upset at Afghanistan war
Federal agents arrested Abdi the morning of Nov. 28, 2003, the day after Thanksgiving, out of fear the attack would be carried out on the heavy shopping day. He was arrested at 6 a.m. while leaving his Columbus home for morning prayers.

Faris is serving 20 years in a maximum-security federal prison in Florence, Colo., for his role in an al-Qaida plot to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge. Faris scouted the bridge and told al-Qaida its plans wouldn’t work, court papers have said. Prosecutors accused Paul, who was arrested in April, of joining al-Qaida and plotting to bomb European tourist resorts and U.S. government facilities and military bases overseas.

Prosecutors also say Abdi gave stolen credit card numbers to a man accused of buying gear for al-Qaida, and lied on immigration documents to visit a jihadist training camp.

Abdi’s attorneys said he was merely upset at the war in Afghanistan and reports of civilians killed in bombings by the U.S.-led invasion. They have said that the stolen numbers were never used and that the Justice Department never alleged what organization they believed was running the camp, what Abdi intended to do with the training, or whether he ever actually went.

He was to remain at the Franklin County jail until his sentencing date, which was not set.

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