One of the Twin Cities men facing charges of supporting terrorism had planned to kill the FBI agents who investigated the group’s activities over the past 10 months, according to federal authorities.
Further, prosecutors say recorded evidence shows that at least one suspect’s family knew of his plans to try to flee the United States and that they would not reveal their son’s conspiracy to authorities.
The new evidence comes from a review of a confidential informant’s secret recordings in early April. The recordings were made as the men allegedly plotted to leave the country to join terrorists fighting in Syria for ISIL — the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
The recordings show anger building against specific FBI agents who the men knew were trailing them. The men knew they had been under watch dating to May 2014 because agents had questioned some of them after they tried to fly out of Minneapolis and again that November, when some tried to fly from New York City.
If he couldn’t get to Syria, one of the suspects said, he would “murder federal law enforcement officers,” according to authorities.
“If there’s no way out, I’m saying. If our backs are against the wall, I’m gonna go kill the one who punks me,” said Mohamed Abdihamid Farah, one of seven men from the Twin Cities who is charged with supporting terrorists in the Middle East. “You know the one. Everybody has that one Fed that you know …”
Farah drove to San Diego in late April with another Somali-American man from Minneapolis and a confidential informant working for the FBI. In another conversation, according to investigators, he said what he would do once he crossed into Mexico, where he hoped to get a flight to Turkey. “I’m going to spit on America at the border crossing,” he told Abdirahman Yasin Daud, another defendant in the case.
The two men then talked about what they’d do upon their arrival in Syria, specifically naming two FBI agents involved in the investigation. Farah is recorded saying he would send the agents a Twitter message, asking them, “What up suckas?”
While driving to San Diego, Farah discussed how they would obtain an “AK” assault rifle immediately after getting into Syria, according to documents filed in the case based on the informant’s recording. Farah said that they would become martyrs even before entering a training camp.
The threats against the agents were revealed Thursday by prosecutors, who argue in court filings that the entire group of suspects should be considered dangerous and not be released from custody before trial, as their attorneys have urged.
To further buttress their case, prosecutors released a transcript of a conversation Daud allegedly had with an unnamed ISIL facilitator. Daud sought advice on what his next step should be as he attempted to leave the U.S. by crossing into Mexico. Daud is told what city he should book a flight to while also making reservations for a hotel to avoid suspicion. “IF you are questioned at airport you have holiday package to show,” reads the conversation on Kik, a messaging app popular with terrorists because it is accessed by a username and password rather than by phone. Daud was instructed, according to the text. “So its like they can’t do nothing … And your alibi should be you coming to have a party. Then when you touch down inshaAllah [if Allah wills]”
The new twist in the sprawling case, which has drawn international attention to the Twin Cities Somali community, comes on the eve of a Friday detention hearing for Daud, who was returned from San Diego earlier this week and made his first court appearance Tuesday. Defense attorneys for all the suspects argued in court last week that their clients had no criminal records and could be electronically monitored from the homes of their families or in halfway houses, rather than being held in county jails across the metro area.
The FBI’s confidential informant, a young Somali-American man who knew the suspects well, began working for agents in late winter. Before that, he’d been an active participant in the alleged conspiracy but turned on his friends. The FBI’s special agent in charge in Minnesota, Rick Thornton, described the informant as having a “courageous change of conscience.”
However, the man, who had been paid more than $12,000 through mid-April, previously was found to have lied to agents and perjured himself in front of a federal grand jury investigating the case.
On March 30, Daud told the informant that his travel to Syria with Adnan Farah — Mohamed’s younger brother, who also is charged in the case — “was helped by Farah’s mother’s belief that he [Daud] is helping Adnan Farah get his life together,” according to documents.
A few days later, Daud was caught on a recorded conversation with Mohamed Farah, the informant and others. Daud stated, according to the recording, that “my family won’t say a word. They know I’m going.”
Over the past two years, more than 20 Somali-Americans from the Twin Cities area have left to fight alongside terrorists aligned with ISIL. That group made up a second wave, the first having included dozens of local men who fled to Somalia starting in 2007 to fight with Al-Shabab, a terrorist branch linked to Al-Qaida.
Mothers speak out
Thursday evening, the mothers of Farah and Daud, speaking at a news conference through an interpreter, said they did not know anything about threats against the FBI. “How am I supposed to answer this?” asked Ayan Farah.
She said that for months the FBI followed her sons, parking outside their Minneapolis home. She claimed agents tried to recruit Mohamed Farah as an informant, telling him he should cooperate or likely face a long prison sentence.
She said she was curious about the young man who started showing up at her home and hung out with her son, the person who she said is the informant. Her sons and his friends told her that he was a new friend from school, she said.
She cried when she described how she has not seen her son in weeks. She said she fears for his well-being. “Everyone is a father or a mother. Anyone who has a kid can feel the same way that we are feeling,” she said.
Farhiyo Mohamed, Daud’s mother, said the FBI approached her and her son two years ago, asking them to cooperate as informants. They declined. “Our religion does not allow us to harm anyone,” she said, recalling that she told agents, “If there’s any concern that you have about us, tell us.”
Farah and Daud were arrested April 19 in San Diego.
Daud “seeks to join ISIL, perhaps the most extravagantly violent terrorist group in the world,” prosecutors stated in their motion arguing that he should be kept in custody. No amount of evidence about “family ties and academic performance” could overcome the risks the suspects posed, they argued. They cited Farah’s threats, recounting that he said on tape that “if his back is put against a wall, he will target special federal agents for murder.”
Staff writer Abby Simons contributed to this report.