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Somalis facing terror charges now number 20

  • Article by: JAMES WALSH
  • Star Tribune
  • June 9, 2011 - 9:30 PM

A former Eden Prairie resident became the 20th person of Somali descent charged in Minnesota with supporting terrorism.

Ahmed Hussein Mahamud, 26, was arrested in Columbus, Ohio, on Thursday morning and made his first appearance in federal court for the Southern District of Ohio. By Thursday afternoon, he was on his way back to Minnesota to face charges that he provided money and personnel to Al-Shabab, a group defined as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department.

A grand jury indictment, filed Tuesday but sealed until Mahamud's arrest, offers little detail. It alleges that he "unlawfully and knowingly" conspired with others to provide support to Al-Shabab and its efforts to "murder, kidnap, maim or injure persons in a foreign country."

Charges say Mahamud did this on or about April 20, 2009, and on or about July 27, 2009, as well as dates unknown. But the indictment doesn't say how many people he allegedly recruited or how much money he allegedly provided.

Al-Shabab is fighting a civil war for control of Somalia. Three years ago, Al-Shabab was fighting to expel Ethiopian troops from the war-torn country. Now, Al-Shabab is fighting against the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia, which the United States supports, and troops from the African Union.

Local spotlight, again

Mahamud is the second Somali man with local ties to return the three-year investigation to the local spotlight.

Last week, Farah Mohamed Beledi was killed in a suicide bombing attempt at a government checkpoint in Mogadishu. On Thursday, the FBI confirmed that Beledi, 27, was one of two suicide bombers in the attack. The FBI identified Beledi, who has a long criminal record in Minnesota, through fingerprints.

Beledi was one of several Somali men who were indicted in July 2010 for providing support to Al-Shabab. It is believed he left the United States for Somalia in October 2009.

Until Thursday, a total of 19 people from Minnesota had been indicted for allegedly fighting for Al-Shabab, recruiting for Al-Shabab or raising money for Al-Shabab. Now, with Mahamud, the number is 20.

An estimated 20 young men from Minnesota are believed to have returned to Somalia since late 2007, sparking what has been considered one of the largest U.S. counterterrorism investigations since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Investigators acknowledge the actual number of Somalis who have slipped away to fight in their homeland could be higher.

Federal officials say eight of the 20 charged have been arrested, in the United States or overseas. Five of them have pleaded guilty in connection to the case. One is in a jail in the Netherlands, fighting extradition. Three others are awaiting trial here -- Omer Abdi Mohamed and two women from Rochester, Amina Farah Ali and Hawo Mohamed Hassan. All are accused of raising money for Al-Shabab or to send others to Somalia to fight. Omer Mohamed is scheduled to go on trial July 13.

Six men from Minnesota are believed to have been killed while fighting in Somalia. The investigation in Minnesota gathered international attention in late 2008 when Minneapolis resident Shirwa Ahmed became the first-known American citizen suicide bomber in Somalia. Since then, dozens of Somali-born residents of Europe, Canada, Australia and elsewhere in the United States also have allegedly lent their support to Al-Shabab as fighters or financiers.

FBI officials say they have uncovered no evidence of plans to carry out any attacks on U.S. soil.

James Walsh • 612-673-7428

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