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Published: Thursday, 1/13/2005

Somali immigrant pleads not guilty in bombing plot

Abdi Abdi

COLUMBUS - A Somali immigrant accused of plotting with an al-Qaeda operative to blow up a shopping mall in the Columbus area pleaded not guilty yesterday.

Shortly after the court opened with "God save the United States and this honorable court," Nuradin Abdi was arraigned in U.S. District Court.

Judge Algenon Marbley set trial for Sept. 12.

At a June, 14, 2004, news conference, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft said Mr. Abdi, a Columbus resident who co-owned a small cell-phone firm, received "military-style" training in Ethiopia and then worked with Iyman Faris, an al-Qaeda member and former truck driver from Ohio, in a plot to bomb a mall.

In addition to two charges of conspiracy to provide support to terrorists, Mr. Abdi faces two counts of fraud and misuse of immigration documents to commit a terrorist act, according to the four-count indictment.

If convicted on all charges, Mr. Abdi, 32, could be sentenced to up to 80 years in prison.

Faris is serving a 20-year federal sentence. In June, 2003, he pleaded guilty to providing material support to al-Qaeda and admitted to plotting to try to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge in New York and derail trains in New York or Washington.

During the brief hearing, Mr. Abdi stood in front of Judge Marbley, who asked him whether he understood the charges.

Mr. Abdi - wearing a beige shirt and blue pants issued at the Franklin County jail, where he is being held without bond - responded in a quiet voice that he did.

As he was escorted out of the courtroom, Mr. Abdi turned to look at about 100 members of the large Columbus Somali community, including several of his relatives.

Mr. Abdi's attorney, Mahir Sherif, who is based in San Diego, said he had not received what the government considers its evidence against Mr. Abdi.

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