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Homeland Security

Department of Justice Seal
Prepared Remarks of Attorney General John Ashcroft
Abdi Indictment Announcement
Monday, June 14, 2004


Good morning.

Joining me today are:

  • Asa Hutchinson, Under Secretary for Border and Transportation Security at the Department of Homeland Security;
  • Michael Garcia, Assistant Secretary for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement;
  • Assistant Attorney General Christopher Wray of the Justice Department's Criminal Division;
  • Gary Bald, FBI Assistant Director for Counter-terrorism; and,
  • U.S. Attorney Gregory Lockhart of the Southern District of Ohio.

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.

This morning, a federal grand jury indictment charging Nuradin M. Abdi, a 32-year-old Somali national, was unsealed in Columbus, Ohio. Abdi was arrested on immigration charges and has been held by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement since November 28, 2003.

I note that an indictment is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. The charges against Abdi are:

  • Conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists;
  • Conspiracy to provide material support to al Qaeda; and,
  • Two counts of fraud and misuse of documents.

According to the indictment and the government's motion to detain Abdi, he was allowed to immigrate to the United States in January 1999. According to the detention motion, the Government will offer evidence that, with the exception of some basic biographical data, virtually all of the information Abdi submitted related to his immigration status was falsified.

The indictment alleges that on April 27, 1999, Abdi applied to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) - now the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement - for a travel document similar to a passport that would allow him to leave the United States and later return. Abdi indicated in the application that he intended to visit Germany and Saudi Arabia.

In fact, as alleged in the indictment, Abdi's destination was Ogaden, Ethiopia, to attend a military-style training camp for violent jihad. Abdi allegedly sought training in guns, guerilla warfare, and bombs.

As stated in the detention motion, Abdi's purpose in seeking this training was to ready himself to participate in violent Jihad conflicts overseas and to lend support to activities his al Qaeda co-conspirators might ask him to perform here in the United States.

It is alleged that in March 2000, Abdi re-entered the United States from Africa using the immigration document gained through fraud. According to the detention motion, one of Abdi's co-conspirators was Iyman Faris, a convicted al Qaeda operative, who picked him up from the airport in Columbus, Ohio. Faris was convicted of material support and conspiracy to provide material support to al Qaeda. He is now serving a 20-year sentence.

Upon returning to the Columbus, Ohio, area, 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. It is also alleged that in pursuit of this plot, Abdi received bomb-making instructions from one of those co-conspirators.

Defendant Abdi faces a maximum of 30 years in prison on the two material support charges. The immigration 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.

Current, credible intelligence indicates that al Qaeda wants to hit the United States and to hit us hard. We know our enemies will go to great lengths to lie in wait and to achieve the death and destruction they desire.

America offers freedom and the protection of human dignity to all oppressed people who come to our shores. Unfortunately, some American citizens, as well as others given haven here, have chosen to betray these values, and to support the terrorists' goals and plots.

Material support of terrorists is a serious crime that places the lives of innocent people at risk and endangers our nation's security.

Our citizens are threatened as much by the financier, the trainer and the planner of terrorist plots, as they are by those who perpetrate these evil acts. Material support is not a charge that is pursued casually or brought lightly.

To protect the lives and liberties of our citizens, the Department of Justice, as well as state and local law enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security, remains vigilant in detecting and disrupting such plots.

I thank Assistant Attorney General Chris Wray of the Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Greg Lockhart of the Southern District of Ohio for their leadership in this case.

I note the efforts of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Marshals Service, as well as the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for their focused and cooperative efforts on this case.

I also thank the Southern Ohio Joint Terrorism Task Force, which includes agents and officers from 15 federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, for their outstanding efforts in this investigation.

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