A 23-year-old nursing school student pleaded guilty Thursday to lying to a federal grand jury about raising money for Minnesotans who went to Somalia to fight Ethiopian troops.
Saynab Hussein had testified in a June 2009 grand jury proceeding in which the underlying offense was a “government conspiracy to commit murder.” Prosecutors didn’t offer any more details of her case in court.
The U.S. attorney’s office did file a notice saying that Hussein’s case is related to that of Abdifatah Isse, who was sentenced to three years in prison for traveling to Somalia to fight in support of Al-Shabab, an organization labeled a terrorist group by the U.S. State Department. He was one of at least nine people sentenced in this country’s largest anti-terrorism investigation since Sept. 11, 2001.
Several dozen young men from the Twin Cities were lured to Somalia, and some died fighting or in suicide bombings. The investigation began after a Minneapolis man, Shirwa Ahmed, detonated a suicide bomb in Somalia in October 2008. Authorities say he was the first known U.S. citizen to carry out a suicide bombing, and they believed he was radicalized in Minnesota.
The following month, the issue became public when families of some of the travelers came forward to say their sons were missing.
When Hussein testified under oath to a grand jury in 2009, she said she didn’t know anyone who’d raised money for the men who left Minnesota to fight Ethiopian troops who were in Somalia aiding its transitional government.
In fact, she had been asked to send money to these individuals and personally participated in raising money for them, according to court documents.
Hussein, who is pregnant, graduated from Roosevelt High School in Minneapolis and is studying nursing in the Twin Cities.
“Ms. Hussein was just 19 years old when she appeared before the grand jury,” said her attorney, John Lundquist. “Telling an untruth is totally out of character for her, but she was young, naive and terrified. She made a mistake and deeply regrets it.”
The maximum sentence is five years, and no sentencing date has been set. Although Hussein is a permanent resident of the United States, she could be deported. She was released on bond Thursday.