Ifrah Nur’s scramble to persuade her younger brother, Abdi, to come back home to Minneapolis after she learned he traveled to Syria to fight alongside “the brothers” was met by a chilling response.
Everybody dies, he told her in a series of social media messages in 2014. “But I want the best death.”
Amid tearful testimony Tuesday in the federal trial of three men prosecutors say tried to follow Nur into Syria to fight for ISIL, Ifrah Nur, 23, explained to jurors what her brother believed would happen to him on the battlefield.
“He believes if he died in Syria he would take his family members to heaven,” she said of Abdi Nur, 22, who fled the United States in May 2014 and remains wanted by the FBI. “That’s why he’s saying: ‘I’m doing this for us all.’ ”
Abdi Nur’s fate is unknown but he is believed to have traveled to Syria after successfully flying to Turkey from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport as part of a plot by a group of Twin Cities Somali men who conspired to join the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Guled Omar, 21, Abdirahman Daud, 22, and Mohamed Farah, 22, are each on trial for conspiracy to provide material support to ISIL and to commit murder outside the United States, which carries a possible life sentence. Six others pleaded guilty in the investigation. Prosecutors say the men attempted multiple times to leave the country before they were charged and arrested in April 2015.
Meanwhile, the government’s paid informant, Abdirahman Bashiir, is expected to take the witness stand late Wednesday afternoon. Bashiir, 20, was originally part of plans to travel to Syria — he helped his cousin, Hanad Mohallim, leave the country — before agreeing to record conversations for the FBI in early 2015.
Earlier Tuesday, details of another Minnesota man who left for Syria in 2014 surfaced publicly for the first time. While reviewing travel documents, FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force Officer Joel Pajak said Nur’s nephew, Mohamed Roble, who is the same age, flew to Istanbul in October 2014 as part of a booked trip to China. He never returned. Roble was not previously named or charged in the case.
Pajak also revealed that the same credit card was used to purchase both Douglas McCain’s and Mohallim’s plane tickets to Istanbul and a hotel room there in early March 2014. Both men were later killed fighting for ISIL in Syria that year.
Multiple federal investigators on Tuesday also described failed November 2014 attempts by four men in the group to fly out of New York after taking Greyhound buses from Minneapolis, and Omar’s attempt to fly from Minneapolis to California the same week.
FBI Agent Michael Lewis, who works in New York, said agents there were alerted to a request routed from Minneapolis to stop four men attempting to board flights at JFK on Nov. 8, 2014. One of them, he said, was Farah, who had a ticket to Bulgaria that connected in Istanbul. Lewis said Farah told him he took a Greyhound bus from Minneapolis because plane tickets out of New York were cheaper. But, Lewis said, Farah did not explain why he waited until the morning of his flight to buy his ticket.
Abdi Nur’s name resurfaced Tuesday afternoon when another local member of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, Daniel Higgins, described his Facebook and Twitter activity before and after he reached Syria. Jurors were shown screenshots of Nur’s tweets from Syria in fall 2014 up until early 2015, including praise for the January 2015 attack on the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris. Another tweet, apparently directed at his mother, told her he missed her “day and night” but that Nur had made a profitable trade with Allah: “my soul for paradise.”
Higgins said Nur also kept in touch with Mohamed Hassan, also known as Miski, who made it to Somalia in 2008 to fight for Al-Shabab. Higgins said Miski kept a “robust social media presence” and told Nur to maintain as much connection as he could to other jihadists who traveled from Minnesota.
“It’s something that we’ve learned after 6 years in jihad,” Miski wrote in one August 2014 Facebook chat. Nur replied that it was hard to stay together in ISIL because “they move you around place to place.”