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Press Release

Former San Diego Resident Sentenced to 20 Years for Funding ISIS Terrorist Activities in Syria

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

A Canadian national and former resident of San Diego, California, was sentenced in federal court today to 20 years in prison, followed by 36 months of supervised release, for conspiring with others to provide material support to terrorists engaged in violent activities such as murder, kidnapping and maiming of persons in Syria.

According to court documents, Abdullahi Ahmed Abdullahi, 37, of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada provided both money and personnel to support the violent jihadist activities of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a foreign terrorist organization. From November 2013 through March 2014, Abdullahi encouraged, aided and financially assisted six North American nationals in traveling to Syria, where they joined ISIS and engaged in armed battles to gain control of the territories and civilian populations within Syria. These six individuals included his three cousins from Edmonton, Canada, an 18-year-old cousin from Minneapolis, as well as San Diego resident Douglas McAuthur McCain.

On Sept. 15, 2017, pursuant to an extradition request by the United States, Canadian authorities arrested Abdullahi. Abdullahi was detained in Canadian custody without bail, pending extradition. On Oct. 24, 2019, Canada extradited Abdullahi to San Diego to face the material support charges in the indictment. Abdullahi pleaded guilty to all charges on Dec. 17, 2021. 

Abdullah admitted that following the departure of those foreign fighters, he also caused money to be wired to third-party ISIS intermediaries in Gaziantep, Turkey, located approximately 40 miles from the Syrian border, for the purpose of continuing to support his coconspirators in violent jihadist activities on the battlefield. All six individuals were subsequently reportedly killed fighting for ISIS.

Abdullahi also admitted that to finance the travel of others to Syria, members of the conspiracy encouraged Abdullahi and others to steal and commit fraud against the “kuffar,” a pejorative term used to describe non-Muslims, claiming that such criminal activity was permissible under Islamic law. Abdullahi admitted that in order to raise funds to support the violent terrorist activities in Syria, he personally committed a violent crime – the Jan. 9, 2014, armed robbery of an Edmonton, Canada, jewelry store. Within weeks after committing that robbery, Abdullahi wired monies to San Diego, totaling approximately $3,100, for the purpose of financing the travel of Douglas and the 18-year old Minneapolis cousin’s travel to Syria to join and fight for ISIS. 

Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman for the Southern District of California, Assistant Director Robert R. Wells of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division and Special Agent in Charge Stacey Moy of the FBI San Diego Field Office made the announcement.

The FBI, San Diego Joint Terrorism Task Force, the Federal Air Marshal Service, the Department of Homeland Security’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), U.S. Border Patrol and U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Field Operations investigated the case. The Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs and Canadian law enforcement partners, including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police; Edmonton Police Services; the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service; the Public Prosecution Service of Canada; and the Canada Crown Prosecutor’s Office, were instrumental in the United States’ efforts to prosecute Abdullahi and combat international terrorism.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Shane Harrigan and Fred Sheppard for the Southern District of California prosecuted the case with valuable assistance provided by Trial Attorney Andrew Sigler of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.

Updated October 17, 2022

National Security
Press Release Number: 22-1110