A St. Paul woman was charged in federal court Tuesday with stealing a passport in order to travel to Syria, where she is believed to have joined forces with radical Islamist groups.
The woman, Yusra Ismail, 20, stole the passport of a friend last August, and three days later boarded a flight for Amsterdam, according to court documents filed Tuesday.
Ismail later contacted relatives in Minnesota to say she was in “Sham,” a term used to describe territory within Syria and Iraq under the control of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), court documents said.
Ismail, who is of Somali descent but not a U.S. citizen, is believed to be one of two Twin Cities women who have left for Syria since the beginning of the year.
After flying to Amsterdam on Aug. 21, Ismail traveled to Oslo, according to the criminal complaint, but no further travel records were discovered.
The owner of the stolen passport contacted Minneapolis police on Aug. 25. In a follow-up interview with the FBI, the unidentified owner said Ismail called her unexpectedly, asking to meet. At the woman’s Minneapolis apartment, Ismail said she was planning to travel to Africa for a wedding, and in the course of the conversation asked to see the woman’s passport, according to an FBI affidavit.
A short while later, Ismail asked to use the bathroom, which was near the room where the woman kept her passport, and apparently took the document, according to court records.
In an interview two weeks after Ismail’s disappearance, relatives said they believed she had been targeted by Islamist recruiters and said they had provided FBI agents with the names of several people who may have tried to influence her.
They said Ismail was deeply religious and was unemployed, but was planning to attend St. Paul College in hopes of becoming a nurse.
Last week, two young Somali-American men from Minnesota were charged with conspiring to leave the United States to fight in Syria. One was stopped at the Twin Cities airport in May and the other is believed to be in Syria.
So far this year, about a dozen young Somali-Americans have departed for the Middle East to fight alongside terrorists, according to the FBI.