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Press Release

Four More Men Sentenced For Providing Material Support To Terrorists

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Minnesota

MINNEAPOLIS—Earlier today in federal court, four more men were sentenced for their roles in terrorism offenses. United States District Court Chief Judge Michael J. Davis sentenced Omer Abdi Mohamed to 144 months in federal prison, followed by 20 years of supervised release. He was ordered to remain in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons. Abdifatah Yusuf Isse, Salah Osman Ahmed, and Ahmed Hussein Mahamud were each sentenced to 36 months in federal prison, followed by 20 years of supervised release. Isse, Ahmed, and Mahamud cooperated with the United States and testified at the trial of Mahamud Said Omar. Yesterday, Judge Davis sentenced Omar to 20 years in prison following his conviction at trial for numerous terrorism offenses relating to his provision of money to al-Shabaab fighters and the facilitation of travel for young men from Minnesota to join al-Shabaab, a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization based in Somalia.

Relative to today’s sentencings, Omer Abdi Mohamed, age 28, of Minneapolis, pleaded guilty on July 18, 2011, to one count of conspiracy to provide material support to co-conspirators who intended to murder, kidnap, or main Ethiopian and Somali government troops. Abdifatah Yusuf Isse, age 29, of Minneapolis, pleaded guilty on April 24, 2009, to one count of providing material support to terrorists. Salah Osman Ahmed, age 30, of Minneapolis, pleaded guilty on July 28, 2009, to one count of providing material support to terrorists. And Ahmed Hussein Mahamud, age 28, formerly of Eden Prairie but most recently of Westerville, Ohio, pleaded guilty on February 6, 2012, to one count of conspiring to provide material support to al-Shabaab.

Following today’s sentencings, United States Attorney B. Todd Jones said, “These defendants, by providing material support to a designated terrorist organization, broke both the law and the hearts of family members across the Twin Cities. They facilitated the travel of other men to Somalia to fight or they themselves traveled to fight, often leaving Minnesota in the dead of night, without so much as a word to their parents. Today’s sentences reflect not only the misguided and insidious nature of their crimes, but also the importance of cooperation and community involvement in preventing potential acts of terrorism.”

J. Chris Warrener, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Minneapolis Field Office, which leads the Minnesota Joint Terrorism Task Force, the primary investigative entity in this case, added, “The sentencing hearings of these four young men serve as reminders that the FBI will continue its efforts to thwart the radicalization of our youth through both investigations and engagement of our community. We remain steadfastly committed to each.”

In his plea agreement filed on July 18, 2011, Omer Abdi Mohamed admitted that between September and December of 2007, he assisted men from Minneapolis in traveling to Somalia to fight with al-Shabaab, knowing that once there, the men intended to murder, kidnap, or main Ethiopian and Somali government troops. Mohamed specifically attended meetings at a Minneapolis mosque, restaurant, and private residence, where he and his co-conspirators formed a secret plan that called for Somali men residing in Minneapolis to travel to Somalia to join al-Shabaab. He also facilitated the travel of several of these young men, helping them obtain plane tickets as well as the false itinerary needed by one man to mislead his family about the purpose of his travel. Mohamed was also present in Minneapolis when money was raised for such travel. Many of those donations came from unsuspecting members of the Somali-American community, who were told the money was to be used for Somalia relief efforts.

In his plea agreement filed on April 24, 2009, Abdifatah Yusuf Isse admitted that during 2007, he met other men at a Minneapolis mosque to conspire to provide money and people to fight in Somalia. Then, on December 8, 2007, he traveled to Somalia and joined al-Shabaab. While there, he participated in fund-raising calls back to Minnesota in an effort to garner money to purchase his own AK-47 rifle. In Somalia, Isse stayed at an al-Shabaab safe house and briefly attended an al-Shabaab training camp before quitting the camp in the Spring of 2008.

In his plea agreement filed on July 28, 2009, Salah Osman Ahmed admitted that in October 2007, he conspired with others in Minneapolis to provide money and people to al-Shabaab. To that end, he raised money from the Somali-American community in Minnesota under false pretenses. Then, on December 6, 2007, Ahmed traveled from Minneapolis to fight in Somalia. While in Somalia, he received basic training from al-Shabaab on AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenades, and machine guns. He also assisted in building a training camp for al-Shabaab, before quitting camp with Isse.

In his plea agreement filed on February 6, 2012, Ahmed Hussein Mahamud admitted that from 2008 through February of 2011, he conspired with others to provide money and people to al-Shabaab. Specifically, in the summer of 2008, he assisted with fundraising under false pretenses, claiming the money raised would be used for a local mosque or to help orphans in Somalia, when, in fact, it was for purchasing airline tickets and paying other expenses for men who traveled from Minneapolis to Somalia to join al-Shabaab. In 2009 and 2010, he also conspired to send money to an al-Shabaab fighter to assist in buying weapons. He sent money via wire transfers to a co-conspirator in Somalia, knowing the money would be used to purchase weapons or otherwise support al-Shabaab.

This case arose out of “Operation Rhino,” a federal investigation that has focused primarily on the disappearance of approximately 20 young, ethnic Somali men from the Twin Cities area during the past six years. The young men were recruited to fight with al-Shabaab. The earliest groups of men departed the United States in October and December of 2007, while others left in February 2008, August 2008, September 2008, November 2008, and October 2009. Upon arriving in Somalia, the men resided in al-Shabaab safe houses in Southern Somalia until constructing an al-Shabaab training camp, where they were trained from that point on. Senior members of al-Shabaab and a senior member of al-Qaeda in East Africa conducted those trainings.

In July 2008, men from Minneapolis as well as other Americans participated in an al-Shabaab ambush of Ethiopian troops. On October 29, 2008, one of those men, Shirwa Ahmed, who left Minneapolis in December 2007, detonated a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device as one of five coordinated suicide bombings in Bosaso and Hargeisa, Somalia. Ahmed is believed to have become the first American suicide bomber in Somalia. On May 30, 2011, Farah Mohamed Beledi, an indicted individual who departed Minnesota in October 2009, was killed at a checkpoint in Somalia as he attempted to detonate his suicide vest. To date, approximately 18 individuals have been charged through Operation Rhino, and eight have been convicted. The remaining ten are believed to be fugitives or have been killed in Somalia.

These cases resulted from a long-term investigation conducted by the FBI’s Minneapolis Joint Terrorism Task Force.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Charles J. Kovats, John Docherty, and LeeAnn K. Bell, and William M. Narus of the Counterterrorism Section of the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Security Division.



Updated April 30, 2015