Suspected Somali terrorist gets new court date

  • Article by: ALLIE SHAH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 15, 2011 - 9:42 PM

Mahamud Said Omar, formerly of Minneapolis, is one of 14 Somali-Americans to face charges stemming from an FBI probe.

A former Minneapolis man accused of helping to support terrorists in his native Somalia remains in custody after appearing in a United States courtroom Monday for the first time since being extradited from the Netherlands.

Mahamud Said Omar, 45, stood before U.S. Chief Judge Michael J. Davis in Minneapolis as the charges against him were read.

The charges, including providing material support to a known terrorist group and conspiracy to kill people outside the country, stem from a years-long FBI investigation into the travels of 20 or more young Somali-American men from Minnesota to Somalia.

Authorities believe they were recruited to fight for Al-Shabab, a rebel group in Somalia designated by U.S. officials as a terrorist organization with Al-Qaida ties.

Court documents say Omar played a role as a facilitator or recruiter, who helped move people to fight and money to buy assault rifles.

But Omar's family, including two brothers who attended Monday's hearing, has repeatedly and vehemently disputed the charges, painting a starkly different picture of a man who struggles with life and lacks the education and mental prowess to commit such crimes.

At Monday's court session, Omar asked for an interpreter who speaks the Maay Maay dialect of the Somali language.

There wasn't one available.

The judge granted a request by Matt Forsgren, Omar's attorney, for more time to prepare his case and arrange an interpreter. He set the detention hearing for Aug. 26.

In the meantime, Omar will stay in jail.

At the next hearing, Davis will decide whether Omar will remain in custody for the duration of the court proceedings or if he will be released, and if so, under what conditions.

Forsgren declined to comment on the charges.

Omar was arrested in the Netherlands last year. He had fought the extradition from the Netherlands until a Dutch court ruled against him; he arrived in Minnesota last week.

He is one of 14 Somali-Americans charged in the case.

Special Agent E.K. Wilson of the FBI's Minneapolis office credited the Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice with its work to get Omar extradited.

"We would not have been able to get to this place in this particular extradition without the expertise and professionalism of this Dutch agency," Wilson said.

Allie Shah • 612-673-4488

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