After nearly two years in custody abroad, a Minnesota man charged with recruiting Americans to join the ranks of an al Qaeda-linked Somali terror group has been brought back to face trial, the Department of Justice announced Monday.
Mahamud Said Omar, formerly of Minneapolis, was indicted in Aug. 2009 for allegedly conspiring "with others to provide financial assistance as well as personnel to al-Shabaab." Al-Shabaab, an Islamic militant group linked to al Qaeda, has claimed at least one high-profile attack in Uganda during the 2010 World Cup and is suspected of planning to expand its operations to attacks on the U.S. homeland.
According to prosecutors, the arrest of 45-year-old Omar came out of "Operation Rhino," described as an "investigation that focused on the disappearance of young ethnic Somali men who lived in the Minneapolis area and were ultimately found to have been recruited to fight with al-Shabaab back in Somalia." Omar is accused of not only recruiting the young men, but also providing them financial assistance to acquire weapons and travel to Somalia for training. Though born in Somalia, Omar was given permanent resident status in the U.S. in 1994.
Once in Somalia, the "travelers" were housed in al-Shabaab safe houses and trained by senior al-Shabaab and al Qaeda members. Omar was tracked down and arrested in the Netherlands in November 2009. After being held for months, he was extradited and appeared in federal court in Minneapolis Monday.
Omar's appearance in court coincided with the appearance of a new video from al Qaeda's new commander, Ayman al-Zawahiri in which he urged al Qaeda followers to launch attacks on the U.S. to avenge the death of the groups former leader, Osama bin Laden.
"America today is staggering... Hunt her down wherever you may encounter her. Hunt her down to cut what is left of her corruption's tail," Zawahiri says in the video, posted online Monday. "Hunt her down until history says that a murderous country spread corruption in the earth so God sent his faithful to her to make an example out of her."