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Earlier today at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn, Mahdi Hashi was sentenced to nine years in prison by United States District Judge John Gleeson for conspiring to provide material support to al-Shabaab, a designated foreign terrorist organization. The defendant traveled from the United Kingdom to Somalia to join the terrorist group, which has a long history of violence against civilians and others. While in Somalia, the defendant was affiliated with the American jihadist, Omar Hamami and his band of American fighters, as well as individuals associated with al-Shabaab’s suicide bomber program.
The sentence was announced by Robert L. Capers, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, John P. Carlin, Assistant Attorney General for National Security, and Diego Rodriguez, Assistant Director-in-Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office.
As stated in court today and according to court documents, between approximately December 2009 and August 2012, the defendant served as a member of al-Shabaab in Somalia where he conspired to support al-Shabaab and its violent extremist agenda. In August 2012, the defendant was apprehended with others by local authorities in East Africa after he left Somalia, and then lawfully deported to the Eastern District of New York for prosecution in November 2012.
On November 14, 2012, the Federal Bureau of Investigation took custody of the defendant and brought him to the Eastern District of New York for prosecution. He, along with two codefendants, pleaded guilty on May 12, 2015.
“This defendant left his family and his adopted home in the United Kingdom behind so he could offer himself in support of al-Shabaab, a violent terrorist organization that has demonstrated its capabilities and motives in numerous terrorist attacks and that has publicly called for attacks against the United States,” stated U.S. Attorney Capers. “Today’s sentence sounds a warning to others who offer support to terrorist groups that pose a threat to the United States and our allies around the world.”
“Hashi travelled to Somalia to join and fight on behalf of al-Shabaab in their foreign terrorist fighter ranks,” said Assistant Attorney General Carlin. “The National Security Division remains committed to detecting, thwarting, and bringing to justice those who seek to provide material support to and fight on behalf of designated foreign terrorist organizations.”
FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Rodriguez stated, “Mahdi Hashi joined a foreign terrorist organization to be part of a group utilizing violence to fulfill their agenda. He now finds himself isolated behind bars due to the criminality of his activities. Through today’s sentence, we hope he can no longer be in a position to inflict, or support those who inflict, harm on others. The FBI, in cooperation with our JTTF partners, will continue to work to identify and interrupt those engaged in terrorist activities globally and bring them to justice in the U.S.”
During the time of the charged conspiracy and thereafter, al-Shabaab successfully recruited individuals from around the world, such as the defendant, to come to Somalia and join the organization. These individuals, known within al-Shabaab as “foreign fighters,” lived, trained, and often fought alongside other native Somali fighters. The foreign fighters were especially valuable to al-Shabaab for several reasons. For example, al-Shabaab frequently made Western foreign fighters the face of its fund-raising and propaganda efforts as part of a broader strategy of emphasizing that the conflict in Somalia was part of a global jihad aimed at creating an Islamic caliphate. In addition, al-Shabaab assesses that Westerners have the potential to more easily cross certain international borders. Because al-Shabaab frequently employs suicide bombings, as it did in the Kampala, Uganda, in 2010 resulting in 74 deaths, freedom of travel was particularly crucial to al-Shabaab’s external terror operations.
Assistant Attorney General Carlin joined U.S. Attorney Capers in thanking the federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies who participate in the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force in New York.
The government’s case is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Shreve Ariail, Seth D. DuCharme, and Richard M. Tucker of the Eastern District of New York, along with Trial Attorney Annamartine Salick of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section. The Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs also provided invaluable assistance.