Today, the Department unsealed four separate indictments charging 14 individuals with terrorism violations for providing money, personnel, and services to al-Shabaab – a terrorist group operating in Somalia with ties to al-Qaeda. Two of these individuals have been arrested.
These indictments and arrests – in Minnesota, Alabama, and California – shed further light on a deadly pipeline that has routed funding and fighters to al-Shabaab from cities across the United States.
An indictment was unsealed in Minnesota charging 10 men with terrorism offenses for leaving the United States to join al-Shabaab as foreign fighters. Seven of these defendants had been previously charged by either indictment or criminal complaint. The remaining three defendants had not been charged before.
In the District of Minnesota alone, a total of 19 defendants have been charged in connection with this investigation. Nine of these defendants have been arrested in the United States or overseas, five of whom pleaded guilty. Ten of the charged defendants are not in custody and are believed to be overseas.
Additionally, two U.S. citizens and former residents of Alabama and California – Omar Shafik Hammami and Jehad Serwan Mostafa have been charged in separate cases with providing material support to al-Shabaab. Both are believed to be in Somalia and fighting on behalf of al-Shabaab.
According to public reports, Hammami has appeared in several propaganda videos on behalf of al-Shabaab that have been distributed worldwide and he is believed to be a ranking member of the al-Shabaab organization with operational responsibilities.
Finally, Amina Farah Ali and Hawo Mohamed Hassan – both naturalized U.S. citizens and residents of Minnesota – were arrested by FBI agents earlier today. They have been charged with providing material support to terrorists, among other offenses.
The indictment alleges that these two women raised money to support al-Shabaab through door-to-door solicitations and teleconferences in Somali communities in Minneapolis, Rochester, and other locations in the United States and Canada. In some cases, these funds were raised under the false pretense that they would be used to aid the poor and the needy.
While our investigations are ongoing around the country, these arrests and charges should serve as an unmistakable warning to others considering joining or supporting terrorist groups like al-Shabaab: if you choose this route you can expect to find yourself in a U.S. jail cell or a casualty on the battlefield in Somalia.
As demonstrated by the charges unsealed today, we are seeing an increasing number of individuals – including U.S. citizens – who have become captivated by extremist ideology and have taken steps to carry out terrorist objectives, either at home or abroad.
It’s a disturbing trend that we have been intensely investigating in recent years and will continue to investigate and root out. But we must also work to prevent this type of radicalization from ever taking hold.
Members of the American Muslim community have been – and continue to be – strong partners in fighting this emerging threat. They have regularly denounced terrorist acts and those who carry them out. And they have provided critical assistance to law enforcement in helping to disrupt terrorist plots and combat radicalization.
These individuals have consistently – and correctly – expressed deep concern about the recruitment of their youth by terrorist groups. Many members of the community have taken proactive steps to stop the recruitment of their youth by terrorist groups. Just recently, a group of prominent American Muslims joined together in a video to repudiate the tactics employed by radicalized militants to recruit young Muslims via the Internet.
There needs to be more recognition of these efforts and of the losses suffered in the Muslim community here and around the world. Many of the victims of terror attacks by al-Shabaab, al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and other terrorist groups are innocent Muslims.
I want to applaud the tremendous work of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Forces in Minneapolis, San Diego and Mobile, Alabama, for their work on these cases. I also want to thank the Dutch KLPD; the Dutch Ministry of Justice, the Justice Department’s own Office of International Affairs, the State Department, including U.S. Embassies in the United Arab Emirates and Yemen; the Hague in the Netherlands; and the Department of Defense for their assistance in the Minneapolis cases, in particular.
These indictments and arrests would not have been possible without the critical contributions from the National Security Division led by Assistant Attorney General David Kris and the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices in Minnesota, the Southern District of Alabama and the Southern District of California – all of whom are represented here on stage with me today.
Now, I’d like to turn it over to the FBI’s Executive Assistant Director for the National Security Branch – Sean Joyce.