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Press Release

U.S. Citizen Charged With Providing Material Support To ISIS And Receiving Military-Type Training At ISIS Fighter Camp

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of New York
Harafa Hussein Abdi Joined ISIS fighters in Somalia in 2015 and Threatened to Attack New York City in the Name of ISIS

Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York; Matthew G. Olsen, the Assistant Attorney General for National Security; James Smith, the Assistant Director in Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”); and Edward A. Caban, the Commissioner of the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”), announced today the unsealing of a Complaint charging HARAFA HUSSEIN ABDI with providing and conspiring to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (“ISIS”), and receiving and conspiring to receive military-type training from ISIS.  ABDI, a U.S. citizen, was recently taken into custody overseas and was transported to the United States yesterday, February 15, 2024.  ABDI will be presented before U.S. Magistrate Judge Valerie Figueredo in Manhattan federal court later today.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “As alleged, Harafa Hussein Abdi, a citizen of this country, traveled from Minnesota to join a group of ISIS fighters in Somalia.  While training with ISIS fighters in Somalia, Abdi allegedly carried an AK-47, threatened to attack civilians in New York City, and encouraged others to carry out such attacks.  Our law enforcement partners have relentlessly pursued this investigation to ensure the disruption of Abdi’s alleged plans to wage terror on our shores and bring Abdi to an American court to face justice.  No matter how long it takes, this Office is steadfast in its commitment to investigate, disrupt, and prosecute terrorist threats against Americans.” 

Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen said: “As stated in the complaint, Mr. Abdi left his country to join ISIS, trained as a fighter, and actively aided the group’s propaganda efforts to spread its vile ideology.  There is no higher priority for the National Security Division than to protect Americans from terrorist organizations, and we will work tirelessly to find and hold accountable those who would join these groups to do our people harm wherever they may be.”

FBI Assistant Director in Charge James Smith said: “Harafa Hussein Abdi allegedly moved overseas to join ISIS, aided in their propaganda efforts, and openly threatened violence against New York City.  Abdi was arrested before his plans came to fruition.  The FBI’s New York Joint Terrorism Task Force is determined to bring to justice anyone willing to carry out evil in order to protect the American people.”

NYPD Commissioner Edward A. Caban said: “As alleged, this arrest is the result of New York law enforcement’s ongoing commitment to hold accountable anyone who voices solidarity with terrorist organizations and, motivated by ideology, desires to harm Americans.  I commend everyone from the NYPD, the FBI, and the dozens of other agencies on New York’s Joint Terrorism Task Force for always relying heavily on the strength of our partnerships here and around the world.”

As alleged in the Complaint:[1]

ABDI is a U.S. citizen who moved from Minnesota to Somalia in 2015.  Once there, ABDI joined a group of ISIS fighters at an ISIS training camp in the Puntland region of Somalia.  During his time with the ISIS group, ABDI regularly carried an AK-47 assault rifle and received training on how to use it.  In addition, ABDI worked in the ISIS group’s “media” wing, where he filmed footage for distribution by a pro-ISIS media outlet.

In social media communications during his time at the ISIS camp, ABDI described how he had left the United States and joined the “Islamic state.”  ABDI also stated that he had made “hijra,” an Arabic term used by ISIS supporters to refer to traveling overseas to join ISIS and engage in jihad.  ABDI also sent a photograph of himself carrying an AK-47 assault rifle, as depicted below:

Photo of the defendant carrying an AK-47 assault rifle

 In or about January 2017, ABDI sent an audio clip of rap lyrics in which ABDI expressed his support for ISIS and described multiple acts of violence, including shooting and bombing individuals in New York City.  Specifically, ABDI stated, “hollow tips put a hole in your Catholic vest, and chop his head off let it rest on his Catholic chest.”  ABDI further stated, “We going to carry on jihad”; “Fly through America on our way to shoot New York up. They trying to shut this thing. We ain’t going. We going to come blow New York up.”  ABDI sent the audio clip to at least 20 other social media users and included messages with the audio clip, such as “Fighting back the kuffar who’s at war with Muslims if [that] is not islam then I don’t know wats Islam.”

ABDI left the ISIS camp in 2017 after his relationship with the ISIS group’s leadership deteriorated.  After being jailed by the ISIS group, ABDI escaped and traveled to East Africa, where he was arrested by law enforcement authorities.  In subsequent Mirandized interviews with FBI personnel, ABDI admitted that he had joined the ISIS training camp in the Puntland region, which was affiliated with a known leader of ISIS fighters in Somalia.  ABDI also identified himself in an ISIS propaganda video that he helped to film at the ISIS training camp in which ABDI carried an AK-47 assault rifle, promoted ISIS, and urged others to join ISIS and fight on its behalf.  In the video, ABDI stated, “We thank almighty God for making us His soldiers and chose us to be among the Khilafa troops,” and “So do not stay behind, brother, and get on this caravan. . .  Those who believe fight in the cause of Allah, and those who reject Faith fight in the cause of Evil.”  ABDI also admitted that he was trained on and regularly carried an AK-47 assault rifle while at the ISIS camp and practiced shooting the AK-47 in the Somali wilderness outside the camp.

*                *                *

ABDI, 41, of Minneapolis, Minnesota, is charged with (i) conspiring to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; (ii) providing material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; (iii) conspiring to receive military-type training from a designated foreign terrorist organization, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison; and (iv) receiving military-type training from a designated foreign terrorist organization, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, a fine, or both.

The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by a judge.

Mr. Williams praised the outstanding efforts of the FBI’s New York Joint Terrorism Task Force, which consists of investigators and analysts from the FBI, the NYPD, and over 50 other federal, state, and local agencies.  Mr. Williams also thanked the Counterterrorism Section of the Department of Justice’s National Security Division, the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs, the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division, the FBI’s International Operations Division, and the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection for their assistance.

This case is being handled by the Office’s National Security and International Narcotics Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas S. Bradley is in charge of the prosecution, with assistance from Trial Attorney Kevin Nunnally of the Counterterrorism Section.

The charges contained in the Complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

[1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Complaint and the description of the Complaint set forth herein constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.


Nicholas Biase, Lauren Scarff
(212) 637-2600

Updated February 16, 2024

National Security
Press Release Number: 24-058