An attorney for the latest Somali-American man charged with conspiring to fight alongside terrorists in Syria contended Thursday that if he is as dangerous as the FBI claims, he would have been arrested months ago when he told an informant he could build rockets capable of shooting down airplanes.
Despite an April recorded telephone conversation in which 20-year-old Abdirizak Warsame made the assertion, agents waited more than eight months to arrest him, proving that he is not a threat, according to the filing in federal court by Warsame’s attorney Robert Sicoli.
The motion comes after Warsame’s November arrest on allegations that he played a key role in a group of friends charged with attempting to leave the United States to join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL.)
In December, Magistrate Judge Becky Thorson ordered Warsame jailed pending trial, but Sicoli asked that Warsame be released to live with his mother in Eagan under electronic monitoring. Warsame is related to several members of the Somali community who are involved with countering terrorism recruitment among Somali youth, and have gone so far as to assist the federal government in outreach efforts — connections that could provide stability for Warsame, according to the court filing.
Warsame, who worked at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport handling baggage from April to August 2014, was not suspected by the FBI of doing anything suspicious during that time. Authorities say that in April, Warsame told a confidential informant that he “had the ability to build homemade rockets that could shoot down airplanes.”
“There is no indication that Mr. Warsame had any such capability,” Sicoli wrote.
Sicoli pointed out that when he asked FBI special agent Daniel Higgins why Warsame wasn’t immediately arrested after the recorded conversation, Higgins said “it was not his decision on when to charge Mr. Warsame with a criminal offense.”
“If Mr. Warsame was a danger to the community, the government would have taken immediate action to take him off the streets in April of 2015, especially if the government believed that Mr. Warsame really was capable of building rockets to shoot down airplanes,” Sicoli wrote.
“For the government to claim eight months later that Mr. Warsame is now a danger to the community is disingenuous. If he wasn’t a danger to the community in April of 2015, he is certainly not a danger to the community now in light of the fact that the government has acknowledged that it has no information that Mr. Warsame has done anything illegal, or made any incendiary comments, since April of 2015.”
Several of Warsame’s co-defendants await trial in May. Three have pleaded guilty.