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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of New York

Friday, January 15, 2016

Two Members Of Al-Shabaab Sentenced To 11 Years For Conspiring To Provide Material Support To The Terrorist Organization

Defendants Were Members of “Foreign Fighter” Corps

Earlier today at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn, Ali Yasin Ahmed and Mohamed Yusuf were sentenced to 11 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 defendants, both naturalized Swedish citizens, traveled to Somalia intending to wage violent jihad on the U.N.-sanctioned AMISOM and Somali government forces that were attempting to bring stability to that war-torn country.  Once in Somalia, the defendants participated in numerous attacks on government forces, and Yusuf appeared in an al-Shabaab recruiting video aimed at inducing young Muslim men in Western countries to leave their homes and join the terrorist organization.

The sentences were 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 2008 and August 2012, the defendants served as members of al-Shabaab in Somalia, where they agreed with others to support al-Shabaab and its extremist agenda.  In early August 2012, the defendants were apprehended in East Africa by local authorities while on their way to Yemen.  On November 14, 2012, the Federal Bureau of Investigation took custody of the defendants and brought them to the Eastern District of New York for prosecution.  They pleaded guilty on May 12, 2015. 

“These defendants left their adopted European homes to support al-Shabaab, a violent terrorist organization that has demonstrated its capabilities and motives in numerous terrorist attacks overseas and has publicly called for attacks against the United States,” stated U.S. Attorney Capers.  “Today’s significant sentences reflect the seriousness of the defendants’ criminal conduct and will serve as a strong deterrent to others considering the path to violence.”

“Ahmed and Yusuf travelled to Somalia to fight on behalf al Shabaab as part of the terrorist organization's cadre of foreign fighters,” said Assistant Attorney General Carlin.  “The National Security Division remains committed to identifying, disrupting, and holding accountable all who seek to provide material support to and fight on behalf of designated foreign terrorist organizations.”

FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Rodriguez stated, “The guilty pleas and sentencing of these men for providing material support to al-Shabaab demonstrates the U.S. government’s commitment and leadership in prosecuting persons whose intention is to violently assault societies different than their own.  We remain steadfast in identifying and stopping such attacks.  We will continue to work within the framework of the U.S. justice system to hold terrorists accountable for their malicious intentions and criminal actions.  Special thanks to all our law enforcement and intelligence community partners on the JTTF, whose joint efforts keep us safe.  We are also grateful for the international cooperation we received to bring these terrorism subjects to justice.”

During the time of the charged conspiracy (and thereafter), al-Shabaab successfully recruited individuals from around the world, such as the defendants, 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.  Indeed, one of the defendants, Yusuf, is featured in an al-Shabaab propaganda video in which he encouraged young men to travel to Somalia and join al-Shabaab and threatened a cartoonist who had depicted the prophet Mohammad.  In addition, Yusuf and Ahmed fought in battles in Somalia against African Union forces.  A third defendant, Madhi Hashi, is scheduled to be sentenced on January 29, 2016.

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 the Office’s National Security and Cybercrime Section.  Assistant United States Attorneys Shreve Ariail, Seth D. DuCharme, and Richard M. Tucker, along with Trial Attorney Annamartine Salick of the Department of Justice’s Counterterrorism Section, are in charge of the prosecution.  Trial Attorney Shanna Batten of the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs, and Dan Stigall, Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division, also provided invaluable assistance.

The Defendants:

ALI YASIN AHMED, also known as “Ismail”
Age: 31
Nationality: Swedish

MOHAMED YUSUF, also known as “Abu Zaid,” “Hudeyfa” and “Mohammed Abdulkadir”
Age: 33
Nationality: Swedish

National Security
Updated February 4, 2016