US man pleads guilty to aiding Somali militants
A U.S. man pleaded guilty on Monday to providing material support to a militant group that recruited young men of Somali descent to fight in Somalia, at least two of whom blew themselves up in attacks.
Omer Abdi Mohamed, 26, faces up to 15 years in prison after admitting to providing support for al-Shabaab, which the U.S. government has designated a terrorist group.
He was indicted in November 2009 as part of an investigation into the recruitment by al-Shabaab of ethnic Somali men from the Minneapolis area. Several groups of men have left the Minneapolis area for Somalia since October 2007.
Mohamed admitted in his plea agreement to attending meetings at a mosque, restaurant and residence in Minneapolis where planning occurred from September 2007 to December 2007.
He also admitted to being present when money was raised, often from unsuspecting members of the Somali-American community who were told it would be used for relief efforts, prosecutors said.
Mohamed also helped some men obtain airplane tickets and knew they intended to commit murders, kidnappings or maimings when they arrived in Somalia, according to his plea agreement.
The “dangerous and misguided” recruiting efforts tore apart many Somali-American families, U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones said in a statement.
“Parents were left to fret over the disappearance of their young sons, who often left home without a word,” Jones said. “In some instances family members discovered what happened to their relatives only by watching Internet videos being used as propaganda by al-Shabaab.”
The men lived in al-Shabaab safe-houses in Somalia before building a camp where they were trained by senior members of al-Shabaab and a senior member of al-Qaeda, prosecutors said.
One traveler from Minneapolis died after detonating a car bomb as part of a coordinated attack in October 2008, and a second man was killed in May 2011 at a checkpoint as he tried to detonate a suicide vest, prosecutors said.
Thousands of Somali refugees have settled in the Minneapolis area since civil war erupted in Somalia in 1991.
Mohamed’s was the sixth guilty plea in connection with the investigation. His sentencing date before U.S. District Court Chief Judge Michael Davis has not yet been set. Reuters