A Minneapolis man pled guilty Monday to helping raise money and arrange travel for young Somali men to leave the United States and pursue jihad in Somalia, a news release from the Minnesota U.S. Attorney's Office announced.
Omer Mohamed, 26, faces up to 15 years in prison as a result of his plea. He was scheduled to stand trial Tuesday on conspiracy charges related to the effort to help the terrorist group al-Shabaab wage attacks on Ethiopian troops that are part of a peacekeeping effort. Instead, he became the sixth person to plead guilty in the case.
In the fall of 2007, the plea agreement says, he attended meetings at Minneapolis-area mosques, restaurants and homes about the conspiracy. Mohamed helped raise money and even took some of the young men to a travel agent to buy airplane tickets. At least 20 young Somalis from the Minneapolis area are believed to have left for Somalia. Several have died in subsequent attacks, or may have been killed trying to leave the terrorist group.
In a trial brief, prosecutors promised to show how Mohamed and others solicited money by lying to local Somalis, telling them the money was "to build a mosque or to assist with relief efforts in Somalia. In fact, the money was to pay for the airfare and travel expenses of the group of men to join in the conspiracy."
Minnesota U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones called the plan "a dangerous and misguided effort to support a terrorist organization" that "tore apart many Somali-American families. Parents were left to fret over the disappearance of their young sons, who often left home without a word. In some instances family members discovered what happened to their relatives only by watching Internet videos being used as propaganda by al-Shabaab. I doubt many of us can imagine the feelings in such circumstances, and I can only hope that the criminal prosecutions we continue to take against those involved, including Omer Abdi Mohamed, will help deter these ill-advised actions in the future."
Recent articles by a Kenyan investigative reporter, however, indicate that a new batch of Western Somalis may have returned to Africa without being detected by law enforcement.