A terrorism suspect arrested at the Augusta bus station last month pleaded not guilty to federal charges Monday in the Southern District of Alabama.
Mohammad A.R. Abukhdair was returned to Mobile, Ala., after his arrest downtown on Dec. 11. A March 4 trial is scheduled.
According to a sworn statement presented to U.S. Magistrate Judge W. Leon Barfield in Augusta to obtain permission to search Abukhdair’s belongings last month, Abukhdair had been under investigation since 2011, when he was deported from Egypt on suspicion he was involved with a terrorist group.
Abukhdair, 25, is a U.S. citizen and native of Syracuse, N.Y. According to FBI special agent Gytis Zunde’s affidavit, Abukhdair went to Egypt to study Arabic. After he was deported and returned to the U.S., he ended up in Mobile, where he became friends with Randy (Rasheed) Wilson, 25, a friend and former roommate of Omar Hammami.
Hammami, a native of Alabama who was reported fighting alongside al-Shabaab terrorists in Somalia, was put on the FBI’s Most Wanted List in November.
According to the FBI affidavit: Abukhdair and Wilson were excited that Hammami was added to the Most Wanted List. Since 2011, they have conspired on how to travel to an African country to join in violent jihadi conflicts. Those plans were completed last month when tickets to Casablanca, Morocco, were obtained. The FBI believes they could then travel to Mauritania.
Because of Abukhdair’s deportation from Egypt, the men believed he would not be allowed out of the U.S., according to the FBI affidavit. He had been stopped and questioned by federal agents when he tried to fly to Jordan in October. Wilson and his family were to fly from Atlanta on Dec. 11. Abukhdair was to travel by bus from Mobile to Montreal, Quebec, where he was to fly out Dec. 13, according to the affidavit.
Wilson was arrested at the Atlanta airport Dec. 11.
Abukhdair and Wilson have since been indicted on federal charges of providing material support to terrorists and making false statements to obtain a U.S. passport.