After secretly holding and interrogating a Somali man captured off the coast of Africa for two months, the United States indicted him, claiming he was a liaison between terrorist groups.
The Somali man, Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame, believed to be in his mid-20s, is a top leader in the al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab terrorist group in Somalia who has been acting as a go-between with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the U.S. Justice Department alleged in an indictment Tuesday.
AQAP is a Yemen-based group blamed in a failed Christmas day bombing of a U.S. airliner in 2009 and a plot to blow up cargo aircraft in 2010.
The nine-count federal indictment filed in New York accuses Warsame of conspiracy, providing material support to al Shabaab and AQAP, carrying firearms in furtherance in crimes of violence, conspiracy to teach and demonstrate the making of explosives and receiving military training from AQAP.
If convicted of all the offenses, Warsame could face life in prison.
Warsame has been held on a U.S. Navy vessel and interrogated for intelligence purposes since he was captured by U.S. Special Forces as he allegedly was returning to Somalia from Yemen on April 19, 2011.
Warsame was flown into the United States late on Monday night and made a brief court appearance Tuesday after the indictment was unsealed against him, according to officials.
Warsame urged al Shabaab to undertake operations outside of Somalia, according to U.S. counterterrorism and law enforcement officials.
Warsame provided support to Al Shabaab from at least 2007 until his capture, fighting for the group in 2009, according to the indictment, which alleges, "In or about 2010 and 2011, an on behalf of al Shabaab, Warsame received explosives and other training from AQAP while in Yemen."
Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York said in a prepared statement, "As alleged, Ahmed Warsame was a conduit between al Shabaab and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula -- two deadly terrorist organizations -- providing material support to them both."
Although al Shabaab is engaged in heavy fighting in Somalia's ongoing civil war, its only known operation outside of Somalia is 2010's bombings in Uganda that killed 74 people who were watching the World Cup finals.
The U.S. High Value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG) questioned Warsame for intelligence purposes for more than two months before he was read his Miranda rights. The HIG is a group of interrogation experts composed of experts from the CIA, FBI and Defense Department and other security agencies.
A letter filed with the U.S. District Court by the U.S. Attorney's office in New York noted, "The defendant was interviewed on an all but a daily basis by certain United States officials, who were acting in a non-law enforcement capacity. Thereafter, there was a substantial break from any questioning of the defendant, of four days. After this break the defendant was advised of his Miranda rights and, after waiving those rights, spoke to law enforcement agents."
The letter noted Warsame then was interviewed by FBI agents for seven days.