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Saudi student charged in WMD terror plot

LUBBOCK, Texas - The world is watching to see how the justice system treats a college student from Saudi Arabia who is accused of buying chemicals online as part of a plan to blow up key U.S. targets, his attorney said Friday.

Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari, 20, appeared in federal court in Lubbock on Friday. He has been charged with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction after federal authorities said he bought explosive materials online and planned to hide them inside dolls and baby carriages to blow up dams, nuclear plants and former President George W. Bush's Dallas home.

Aldawsari's attorney, Rod Hobson, declined to comment as he left the courtroom but said in a statement that his client will plead not guilty. The "eyes of the world are on this case" and how Aldawsari is treated, Hobson said.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Nancy Koenig asked Aldawsari, handcuffed with his feet shackled and flanked by armed officers, whether he understood the charges against him, and ordered him to remain in custody until a March 11 detention hearing. If convicted, Aldawsari faces a maximum penalty of life in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Aldawsari, who was legally in the United States on a student visa, studied chemical engineering at Texas Tech University until January when he transferred to a nearby college to study business.

Prosecutors said he was influenced by 9/11 and speeches by Osama bin Laden and had secretly planned to launch a terrorist attack in the U.S. According to court records released Thursday, his journal showed a plan to travel to New York City and place bombs in rental cars for remote detonation during rush hour.

FBI special agent Robert Casey said Thursday there was a range of targets being considered. The White House said President Barack Obama was notified about the alleged plot before Aldawsari's arrest on Wednesday.

Representatives at the Saudi Embassy in Washington, D.C., and at the consulate in Houston did not immediately return calls for comment.- AP

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