Terror recruiting has had a significant impact on Minnesota. Since 2006, overseas terror organizations have targeted Twin Cities residents in an effort to persuade and enable some to join groups like al-Shabaab and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The US Attorney’s Office in Minnesota works closely with the FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force to interrupt terror recruiting activity and to prosecute those who provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization.
Operation Rhino was an investigation that focused on young men from the Twin Cities’ area who were recruited to fight with al-Shabaab against Somalia’s internationally recognized Transitional Federal Government and African Union peacekeeping troops in Somalia.
Between 2009 and 2011, at least 20 individuals were indicted for crimes related to al-Shabaab. Ten of those individuals either pleaded guilty or were convicted after a jury trial. The remaining cases are pending.
In 2013, ISIL began targeting Twin Cities residents. Three individuals were charged with crimes related to ISIL. Of those, one has pleaded guilty to providing material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization. Seven defendants have been indicted in 2015 for providing or attempting to provide material support to ISIL and related charges.
- Yusra Ismail was charged on December 2, 2014, with stealing and misusing a passport. As charged, Ismail stole a passport from a friend before leaving the United States on a flight to Europe. She later communicated with members of her family that she was in “Sham,” which is a term commonly used to describe the area within Syria and Iraq where the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) operates.
- Abdi Nur and Abdullahi Yusuf were charged on November 25, 2014, with conspiracy to provide material support to ISIL. Nur departed from the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport for Istanbul, Turkey on May 29, 2014. After his departure for Turkey, Nur communicated via Facebook with a person in the United States, stating that he had “gone to the brothers,” and that he is, “not coming back.” Yusuf attempted to depart the United States on May 28, 2014, but was stopped at the airport. He pleaded guilty on February 26, 2015.
- On April 20, 2015, six Minnesota men were charged with conspiracy to provide material support to ISIL. One month later, a superseding indictment was filed, adding those six to a conspiracy indictment charging Hamza Ahmed with crimes related to support for ISIL. This 10-month FBI-led investigation culminated in the April 19, 2015 arrest of six men, two of whom had allegedly purchased false passports as part of their effort to evade detection when attempting to travel to Syria to join ISIL.