Houston: A student from Saudi Arabia appeared in a federal court and pleaded for guilty for attempting to blow up nuclear plants in US and the residence of former President George W Bush.

US Marshals escorted handcuffed Khalid Ali-M-Aldawsari into US District Court, Northern District of Texas on Friday, two days after he was arrested on terror charges.

The Justice Department said Aldawsari bought explosive chemicals online and planned to blow up dams, nuclear plants, or the Dallas home of former President George W Bush.

Aldawsari, 20, reportedly said he had been inspired by 9/11 and speeches by Osama bin Laden.

When asked by Judge Nancy Koenig if he understands the charges against him, he replied: "Yes, I do".

Judge Koenig also asked Aldawsari if he had been contacted by the Saudi Consulate. He answered "Yes".

The judge ordered him to remain in custody until a March 11 detention hearing.

However, if convicted, Aldawsari, who faces charges of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction will serve a maximum penalty of life in prison.

In his journal, the college student from Saudi Arabia who studied chemical engineering in Texas described a plan to travel to New York City, place bombs in several rental cars for remote detonation and leave the vehicles in different places during rush hour, according to  court documents released on Thursday.

"After mastering the English language, learning how to build explosives and continuous planning to target the infidel Americans, it is time for jihad," or holy war, Aldawsari wrote in the journal, according to the documents filed by prosecutors.

In a statement, Aldawsari's attorney Rod Hobson called press coverage "very one-sided and biased," and suggested it has made it difficult for Aldawsari to receive a fair trial in Lubbock.

"This is not 'Alice in Wonderland' where the Queen said, 'First the punishment, then the trial,'" Hobson said.

"This is America, where everyone is entitled to the presumption of innocence, due process, effective representation of counsel and a fair trial.”

 "This is a wonderful opportunity for us to show the world how truly fair our legal system is; even to those who are accused of trying to harm our country," he said.

"As we lay out in this affidavit, there were a range of targets being contemplated," Robert Casey, the FBI special agent in charge of the case, said.

Aldawsari, who was legally in the US on a student visa, studied chemical engineering at Texas Tech University until January before transferring to a nearby college to study business.

The White House said President Barack Obama was notified about the alleged plot before Aldawsari's arrest.

Federal authorities said they learned of the plot after a chemical company, Carolina Biological Supply of Burlington N C reported USD 435 in suspicious order by Aldawsari to the FBI on February 1.

Separately, Con-way Freight, the shipping company, notified Lubbock police and the FBI the same day with similar suspicions because it appeared the order wasn't intended for commercial use.

Within weeks, federal agents had traced Aldawsari's other online purchases, discovered extremist posts he made on the Internet and secretly searched his apartment, computer and e-mail accounts and read his diary, according to court records.

Aldawsari falsely told the supplier he was associated with a university and wanted the phenol for "off-campus, personal research," according to court records.

Frustrated by questions, Aldawsari cancelled his order and later e-mailed himself instructions for producing phenol, the documents say.

Prosecutors said that in December, he bought 30 litres of concentrated nitric acid for about USD 450 from QualiChem Technologies in Georgia, and three gallons of concentrated sulfuric acid that are combined to make TNP.

The FBI later found the chemicals in Aldawsari's apartment as well as beakers, flasks, wiring, a Hazmat suit and clocks.

A Saudi industrial company, which was not identified in court documents, was paying Aldawsari's tuition and living expenses in the US.

Khalid Aldawsari came to the South Plains in 2009 in pursuit of a chemical engineering degree at Texas Tech.

Much like the terrorists who executed the 9/11th attacks, Aldawsari laid low. He lived quietly in Lubbock for almost two years.

To those who lived with him behind the gates of the Centre at Overton Park, the 20-year-old Saudi Arabian was just another college kid with headphones in his ears, who really kept to himself.

"I was really shocked to get this phone call because he was a very good student by all means," Bosun Jang, a former academic adviser of Aldawsari, said.

According to his blog, Aldawsari's plan was to use a scholarship from Saudi Arabian Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) to enter the country.

Excerpts from Aldawsari's blog state: "The sponsoring corporation's financial scholarship is the largest, which will help tremendously in providing me with the support I need for Jihad, God willing. And now, after mastering the English language, learning how to build explosives, and continuous planning to target the infidel Americans, it is time for Jihad".

FBI reports indicate Aldawsari expressed in other online postings that his inspiration was Osama bin Laden himself and specifically the events of September 11th.

He even wrote:"I wish to create an Islamic group under the banner of Al-Qa'ida and sharing Al-Qa'ida's agenda.