Nadia Alessa told CNN that her boy, 20-year-old Mohammed Mahmood Alessa, was a hothead who had seen a psychiatrist as a teenager, but was not one to plot against the United States.
"Anything makes him angry. But he's not a terrorist; he's a stupid kid," Alessa said.
The younger Alessa, from North Bergen, N.J., and a friend, Carlos Eduardo Almonte, 24, Elmwood Park, N.J., were arrested June 5 while awaiting flights from New York to Egypt. Federal prosecutors allege the pair planned to travel to Somalia to link up with Al-Shabaab, a jihadi group considered a terrorist organization with ties to al Qaida.
Alessa said she helped her son pack for the trip and tried to talk him out of it. She said he told her he was going to Egypt to study Arabic.
Alessa also told CNN she was suspicious of an acquaintance of her son, whom she suspected was an undercover federal agent and was helping arrange the ill-fated trip.