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Man held in mall attack plot to be tested

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A man charged with plotting to blow up a shopping mall slammed his face on a table and smiled vacantly yesterday in a courtroom where a federal magistrate ordered tests to determine whether the suspect is competent to stand trial.

Authorities have accused Nuradin Abdi, 32, of plotting an attack with admitted Al Qaeda member Iyman Faris, who is now imprisoned for never-acted-on plans to sabotage the Brooklyn Bridge. Hundreds of Abdi's supporters gathered at the courthouse to proclaim his innocence.

Magistrate Mark Abel ordered the Somali national transferred to a federal psychiatric facility after finding that Abdi's behavior in jail and his lawyer's difficulties communicating with him made an evaluation necessary.

The transcript of Abel's discussion with attorneys about Abdi's behavior has been sealed, but Abdi acted strangely before and during yesterday's hearing.

After being helped to a chair, Abdi slammed his face to the glass table and kept it there for a few minutes. During the proceedings, he looked around, smiled at no one in particular, and put his head back on the table. Abdi also kicked the table, fidgeted with his wrist and ankle shackles, and kept pushing his chair back from the table. Toward the end of the hearing, he started muttering.

Some friends and relatives of Abdi who were in the courtroom said they were shocked at his behavior.

''The government took a healthy man, and what we have here is a broken man, mentally," his lawyer, Mahir Sherif, told Abel.

Assistant US Attorney Dana Peters said he did not object to the evaluation but added that ''we have no evidence of any abuse of Mr. Abdi."

The indictment against Abdi was unsealed Monday. The FBI said no specific mall was targeted.

Abdi is charged with providing material support to Al Qaeda, conspiracy, and document fraud. If convicted, he could get up to 80 years in prison.

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