Three Somali Americans who plotted to join Isis in Syria convicted

fbiThree young Somali American men who plotted to join the Islamic State in Syria, have been convicted of conspiracy to commit murder overseas, following a landmark federal court case in Minnesota.

Guled Omar, 21, Abdirahman Daud, 22 and Mohamed Farah, 22 could all face life in prison after a jury in Minneapolis convicted each of the most serious charges resulting from a sprawling counter-terrorism investigation led by the FBI in 2015.

The federal government indicted 10 Somali American men, all in their early twenties, in relation to the conspiracy. Six have already pleaded guilty, while the seventh, 22-year-old Abdi Nur is believed to have joined Islamic State in Syria already.

The prosecution’s case leant heavily on the testimony of an FBI informant, 20-year-old Abdirahman Bashir, who had initially been part of the conspiracy, before agreeing to record his friends as they plotted to leave America. Bashir’s five-day testimony proved controversial as some members of the large Somali community in Minneapolis accused the FBI of entrapment.

The six men who have already pleaded guilty could see their sentences reduced following a novel move by US district judge Michael Davis, who assigned a deradicalization expert to examine each of the young men’s potential to deradicalize.

The case is the first multi-defendant Isis-related trial in the US.

The group of young men were involved in multiple attempts to leave the United States, culminating in a plan made in April 2015 to purchase fake passports and leave for Syria via the US border with Mexico. Daud and Farah, along with the informant Bashir, drove for three days from Minneapolis to San Diego, where they met with an undercover FBI agent who had promised to provide passports. Daud and Farah were arrested during the sting operation, and Omar was arrested shortly afterwards.

The court heard numerous secret recordings, made by Bashir, of the three men discussing their plans to leave the country, as well as their views on violent Isis propaganda videos they had watched together. The prosecution also heard testimony from two of the men who had pleaded guilty, both of whom took plea deals in exchange for testifying against their former friends.

“The evidence in this case made clear that the defendants made a deeply personal and deliberate decision back in 2014,” said United States attorney Andrew Luger. “They wanted to fight for a brutal terrorist organization, kill innocent people and destroy their own families in the process. This trial should serve as a wake-up call that it will take the entire community to stop terror recruiting in Minnesota.”

The Somali community in Minneapolis, one of the largest in America, is still reeling from swath of young men, over two dozen, who left the city between 2007-2011 to join the terrorist group al-Shabaab in Somalia.

Some local community leaders have pointed to high levels of poverty and unemployment as an underlying cause of radicalization in the city. Recent research indicates an overwhelming 58% of the 46,000 Somali Americans in Minnesota live in poverty, with 40% of adults unemployed.

But others in the community have argued that the three men were innocent of the most severe charges, conspiracy to commit murder overseas and providing material support to a terrorist organization, as they would not have been able to act on any of their plans without the assistance of the FBI.

The three men plan to appeal against the verdict, according to local reporters.

Richard Thornton, the FBI special agent in charge, defended the methods used throughout the investigation.

“These verdicts affirm the FBI’s investigative efforts,” Thornton said in a statement. “The FBI will not induce people to break our laws. However, the FBI, through all legal means at its disposal, will investigate and pursue those who aim to bring about harm to others.”

Source: Theguardian

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