The U.S. Attorney's Office and FBI in Minnesota announced a series of charges unsealed Monday in the ongoing investigation of individuals recruiting and sending young men from Minneapolis to Somalia to fight with Al Shabaab, a terrorist organization closely linked with Al Qaeda.
The probe into the youths going to fight overseas in Somalia's civil war received increased attention and scrutiny from FBI and DHS officials late last year after one of the men, Shirwa Ahmed, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Somalia, blew himself up in a suicide bombing in northern Somalia Oct. 28, 2008. "A man from Minneapolis became what we believe to be the first U.S. citizen to carry out a terrorist suicide bombing...it appears that this individual was radicalized in his hometown in Minnesota," FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III said in February.
Including Ahmed many as five young Somali Americans have been killed in the conflict between AlShabaab and Somalia's transitional government, according to officials briefed on the case. "The sad reality is that the vibrant Somali community here in Minneapolis has lost many of its sons to fighting in Somalia. These young men have been recruited to fight in a foreign war by individuals and groups using violence against government troops and civilians," said Todd Jones, the U.S. Attorney for Minnesota, in a statement released on Monday.
Cabdulaahi Ahmed Faarax and Abdiweli Yassin Isse were charged in a criminal complaint Monday with conspiracy to kill, kidnap, maim and injure individuals outside of the United States in separate criminal complaints. According to Justice Department officials, Faarax and other Somali men met at a mosque and residence in Minneapolis in late 2007 and encouraged some of the youths to return to their ancestral homeland to help fight in the ongoing war there.
Isse also allegedly helped encourage the men to travel to Somalia as well and helped purchase some of their airline tickets. According to officials, Isse led people to believe he was gathering funds to send youths to Saudi Arabia to study the Koran.
"Faarax also told the co-conspirators that traveling to Somalia to fight jihad will be fun and not to be afraid. Faarax also explained to his co-conspirators that they would get to shoot guns in Somalia," according to an FBI affidavit in the case. Faarax told the men he had fought in Somalia and later was married in Kenya after his fighting. Isse and Faarax departed the United States last month driving across the U.S.-Mexican border.
On their journey from Minneapolis they were stopped by the Nevada Highway Patrol Oct. 6, 2009, when the men said they were enroute to a friend's wedding in San Diego. According to an FBI affidavit, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer identified the men and noted that they had been dropped off by a taxi. The men displayed their airline tickets from Tijuana to Mexico City to the officer.
Both Isse and Faarax are believed to be in Somalia or Kenya, according to FBI officials.