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A Twin Cities man was charged Tuesday in federal court with lying to FBI agents investigating the disappearance of local Somali men believed to have been recruited to fight with terrorists in Somalia.
Appearing for the first time at the federal courthouse in St. Paul, Abdow Munye Abdow, 26, who is of Somali descent, was charged with making a false statement to agents last Thursday. FBI agents were questioning Abdow about a recent trip to Nevada.
According to the criminal complaint filed Tuesday, Abdow was driving a rental car last Tuesday near Las Vegas when the Nevada Highway Patrol stopped him. He and four others in the car told a state trooper they were going to San Diego for a friend's wedding.
Two days later, a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officer stopped two of the people riding in Abdow's rental car. They, along with a third person, had been dropped off by a taxi at the U.S.-Mexico border south of San Diego.
The group told the officer that they were going to fly from Tijuana to Mexico City and showed their plane tickets.
That same day, FBI agents interviewed Abdow back in the Twin Cities. He told the agents that he and a friend named Adam went to Las Vegas after Abdow had a fight with his wife, the complaint said.
After reaching Las Vegas, he and Adam immediately returned to Minnesota. When asked if there were others in the car, Abdow said there weren't, the court records state. He later said that there were three others in the rental car and that he only knew them by their nicknames.
"Whatever those guys are into, I'm not," he said, refusing to elaborate, the complaint said.
Minneapolis has been the center of a major counterterrorism investigation into the disappearance of up to 20 local men, nearly all of Somali descent. FBI officials say they believe the Minnesota men were recruited by terrorists to return to Somalia to fight in the ongoing civil war there. Since last October, six of the men who have left have been killed including the first American suicide bomber.
Three men have pleaded guilty in federal court in Minneapolis to terror-related charges in the case.
FBI spokesman E.K. Wilson said the Abdow case is related to the larger investigation of the missing Somali men.
Abdow stood before U.S. Judge Janie Mayeron on Tuesday and calmly answered questions. His family members filled two rows in the courtroom.
Abdow told the judge that he has two jobs, working as a surgical technician at Fairview Southdale Hospital and as a personal care attendant. His father lives in Kenya.
He has lived in the Twin Cities for 12 years and currently lives in Chanhassen, said his lawyer, Frederick Goetz. Abdow is a high school graduate and attended technical college for two years, he added.
Federal prosecutor Anders Folk pushed for Abdow to remain in custody, arguing that his trip to Nevada and statements made to authorities made him a serious flight risk. Citing Abdow's deep ties to the local community and his clean record, the judge ordered that he be released to a halfway house as soon as there is room.
His next court appearance, a preliminary hearing, is scheduled for Oct. 27 at the federal courthouse in Minneapolis.
Allie Shah • 612-673-4488