Two Local Men Sentenced For Supporting Foreign Terrorists
MINNEAPOLIS—Today in federal court, U.S. District Court Chief Judge Michael J. Davis sentenced two local men for providing material support to foreign terrorists. Mahamud Said Omar, also known as Sharif Omar, age 46, of Minneapolis, was sentenced to 180 months in federal prison on each of Counts 1 through 4, and 240 months in federal prison on Count 5, with the prison sentences to run concurrently. He was also ordered to remain on life-long supervised release once he has served his prison term. Kamal Said Hassan, age 28, of Minneapolis, was sentenced to 120 months in federal prison on each of Counts 1 and 2 and 96 months in federal prison on Count 3, to be served concurrently, followed by 20 years of supervised release.
Omar was indicted on August 20, 2009, on Count 1: conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists; Count 2: providing material support to terrorists; Count 3: conspiracy to provide material support to a Foreign Terrorist Organization; Count 4: providing material support to a Foreign Terrorist Organization; and Count 5: conspiracy to kill, kidnap, maim, and injure overseas. He was arrested in the Netherlands in November of 2009 and extradited to the United States in August of 2011. In October 2012, he was tried and convicted of these crimes. He remains in custody.
On February 18, 2009, Hassan pleaded guilty to Counts 1 and 2 of an information, alleging he provided material support to terrorists and providing material support to the Foreign Terrorist Organization al-Shabaab. He admitted that he had traveled to Somalia, had graduated from an al-Shabaab training camp, and had participated in an al-Shabaab ambush of Ethiopian soldiers. Then, on August 12, 2009, he was charged with and entered a guilty plea to Count 3 of a superseding information, alleging that he made false statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) during interviews with the FBI in early 2009. Those charges were based on the fact that Hassan had lied to the FBI about his continued involvement with al-Shabaab after completing training in an al-Shabaab camp. He pleaded guilty to that crime and remains in custody.
Following today’s sentencings, John Carlin, Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security, said, “With today’s sentences, two individuals who played crucial roles in raising funds and recruiting fighters from the United States to assist al-Shabaab are being held accountable. I thank the many agents, analysts, and prosecutors responsible for this extensive investigation and the many successful prosecutions that have resulted.”
U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones added, “Fighting terrorism, whether at home or abroad, remains the number-one priority of the U.S. Department of Justice. To that end, we must continue to counter violent extremism and radicalization through tough prosecution whenever necessary and education and outreach efforts whenever possible. We need to keep our young people from being recruited and trained by foreign terror organizations, not only because of the threat to themselves and others elsewhere in the world but because of the danger they pose if they return to this country.”
From September 2007 through August 2009, Omar, a Somali citizen who was a lawful permanent resident of the United States, conspired with others to provide financial assistance as well as personnel to al-Shabaab, a Somali group designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the U.S. State Department in March 2008. Specifically, while on a trip to Somalia in early 2008, Omar visited an al-Shabaab safe-house, providing those in charge with hundreds of dollars for the purchase of AK-47 assault weapons, to be used by the Minneapolis men who had traveled there to fight with al-Shabaab. After returning to the United States, Omar facilitated the travel of several young men from Minnesota to Somalia, where they trained with and fought for al-Shabaab. In the fall of 2008, he assisted six additional men, some of whom were as young as 17 years of age, in traveling from Minnesota to Somalia. Later that year, Omar left the United States for Saudi Arabia and eventually sought asylum in the Netherlands.
Prior to departing from Minnesota in December 2007, Hassan engaged in fund-raising and attended meetings at a Minneapolis mosque, restaurant, and private residence for the purpose of developing and implementing the plan to induce Somali men in Minneapolis to travel to Somalia to fight for al-Shabaab. Once in Somalia, he participated in, among other things, an attack by al-Shabaab on a convoy of Ethiopians who were traveling in Somalia. In addition, he assisted in the construction of an al-Shabaab training camp, and he appeared in an al-Shabaab propaganda video that encouraged others to travel to Somalia and join al-Shabaab.
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, said, “Today marks a significant point in our efforts to identify and neutralize the efforts of al-Shabaab to support terrorist operations from their American Diaspora. It represents years of hard work by the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, our many state, local, and federal partners, as well as countless courageous leaders and parents in the Minneapolis Somali community. While the sentencing today represents closure to two very significant cases, our overall investigation continues with our full commitment.”
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 against Somalia’s internationally recognized Transitional Federal Government and African Union peacekeeping troops in Somalia.
The earliest groups of identified “travelers” 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 thereafter trained. 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. One of those men, Shirwa Ahmed, who had resided at the safe house with Omar and Hassan, detonated a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device as one of five coordinated suicide bombings on October 29, 2008, in Bosaso and Hargeisa, Somalia. Ahmed is believed to have become the first American suicide bomber. On May 30, 2011, Farah Mohamed Beledi, one of the men charged with terrorism offenses 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 in the course of Operation Rhino, and eight defendants have been convicted. The remaining ten are believed to be fugitives or have been killed in Somalia.
These cases were the result of an investigation by the FBI’s Minneapolis Joint Terrorism Task Force, with the assistance of the Netherlands National Police Service, the Netherlands Ministry of Security and Justice, the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs, the U.S. Department of State, and the U.S. Department of Defense.
It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Charles J. Kovats, John Docherty, and LeeAnn K. Bell, as well as William M. Narus of the Counterterrorism Section of the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Security Division.