A 20-year-old man from Eagan appeared in federal court Thursday, hours after he was arrested for his alleged leading role among a group of friends who planned to travel to Syria and fight for ISIL.
Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame was charged with conspiring to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization and providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization.
The complaint alleges that he encouraged others to go, put them in contact with ISIL and provided $200 to help one man get an expedited passport.
Warsame’s appearance in the Minneapolis courtroom of Judge Michael Davis was brief. He didn’t enter a plea and mostly replied yes and no to Davis, who asked whether he understood his Miranda rights as well as the complaint against him.
In response to Davis, Warsame said he worked as a $13-an-hour security guard for Securitas and had no assets. He was represented at Thursday’s hearing by federal chief public defender Katherian Roe, who said he would be assigned a public defender.
The federal complaint against Warsame alleges that he was a leader, or “emir,” of a group of Twin Cities Somali-American men who aspired to fight in Syria with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
He is among at least 12 men in the local Somali-American community to face charges for allegedly plotting to get to Syria by various routes. Three have pleaded guilty to terrorism-related charges, five are scheduled to start trial in May and one is in Syria; two others are thought to have been killed in Syria.
Two defendants were charged in November 2014. Seven others were charged this year, one in February and six in April.
In conversations recorded by a confidential informant and transcribed in the complaint, Warsame talked about going to Somalia with his family and taking off to “Sham,” a word used to describe greater Syria, or staying in Somalia, where he allegedly anticipated Al-Shabab and ISIL would merge and take control.
The complaint detailed his unsuccessful effort to get a U.S. passport as early as April 2014. He obtained a passport in August.
By several measures, Warsame was a typical 20-year-old Twin Cities man. His Facebook profile said he attended Bloomington Kennedy High School and enrolled at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, a school attended by several other defendants. He was a familiar presence at some of their hearings, watching with focused interest.
Tweets by Warsame, under the handle @MNPoet, provide glimpses of the duality of his life.
He was funny, tweeting “#rememberwhenpeopleactually went to the bathroom right after they woke up instead of looking at their phones.” He liked NBA player Andrew Wiggins and worried about “my” Minnesota Vikings after the team lost.
The day after the arrests of six young men of East African descent on charges of supporting terrorism, Warsame tweeted: “I swear the same exact dudes you mess with are the same ones that will get you set up. I used to think ppl said this for fun. But damnnna.”
After his arrest, a tweet apparently sent by someone else to his followers read, “Our brother is doing well keep the prayers coming thank you everyone for supporting him he appreciates it.”
Before Thursday’s hearing, Warsame appeared engaged as he leaned on the defense table to talk with Roe. Afterward, he glanced poker-faced at two rows of spectators from the Somali-American community. Three U.S. marshals quickly guided him out of the room through a side door.
His next hearing is set for 11 a.m. Tuesday before Magistrate Judge Janie Mayeron. It is scheduled to be a discussion of whether he will remain in custody pending a trial.