Minnesotans of Somali descent are among 14 people charged with providing support for the terrorist organizaiton al-Shabab in Somalia. The AP reports two indictments unsealed this morning include names of five new people charged in an ongoing investigation, bringing the total number of individuals charged here to 19. Two Rochester residents were accused of fundraising for the group, which was designated a terrorist group by the government in 2008.
“Most of the people are U.S. citizens, with some supporting the terrorist organization from the United States and others traveling to Somalia to do so,” Pete Yost of the AP reports.
Local ties to al-Shabab (also spelled al-Shabaab) have been investigated here for nearly two years, with the case focusing on around 20 young men who disappeared, apparently to go fight in Somalia. The investigation has rattled the local Somali community and brought the attention of national and international press.
Update: The Federal Bureau of Investigation revealed more details about today’s arrests of Minnesotans accused of aiding the Somlia-based terrorist organization al-Shabab. In a press release, the agency named two women charged with conspiracy to provide material support to the group (among other charges), 33-year-old Amina Farah Ali and 63-year-old Hawa Mohamed Hassan, both of Rochester. A July indictment unsealed today charges three U.S. citizens (Abdikadir Ali Abdi, 19; Abdisalan Hussein Ali, 21; and Cabdulaahi Ahmed Faarax, 33) and two others (Farah Mohamed Beledi, 26; and Abdiweli Yassin Isse, 26) with “conspiring to and providing material support to al-Shabaab and conspiring to kill, maim, and injure persons abroad,” among other charges.
The five, along with five previously indicted Somalis in Minnesota, are charged with providing “financial support and personnel, including themselves as fighters, both to a conspiracy to kill abroad and to the foreign terrorist organization al Shabaab.” The five newly named men are believed to have traveled to Somalia in 2008 and 2009.
Ali and Hassan, reportedly the first women charged with aiding the al-Shabab group, were actively fundraising in Minnesota. From the FBI’s release:
Ali, Hassan, and others allegedly raised money for these individuals by soliciting funds door-to-door in Somali communities in Minneapolis, Rochester, and other locations in the United States and Canada. In addition, the defendants allegedly raised money by direct appeal to individuals participating in teleconferences that featured speakers who encouraged donations to support al Shabaab. Ali also allegedly raised funds under the false pretense that such funds were for the poor and needy.The indictment alleges that Ali and others transferred funds to al Shabaab through the hawala money remittance system. Ali and others allegedly used false names to identify the recipients of the funds to conceal that the funds were being provided to al Shabaab. The indictment lists 12 money transfers allegedly directed to al Shabaab by Ali.
The indictment alleges several overt acts to carry out the fund-raising conspiracy. For example, on Oct. 26, 2008, Ali allegedly hosted a teleconference in which an unindicted co-conspirator told listeners that it was not the time to help the poor and needy in Somalia; rather the priority was to give to the mujahidin. Ali and Hassan allegedly recorded $2,100 in pledges at the conclusion of the teleconference. On Feb. 10, 2009, Ali allegedly conducted another fundraising teleconference in which she told listeners to “forget about the other charities” and focus on “the jihad.”
On July 14, 2009, the day after the FBI executed a search warrant at her home, Ali allegedly contacted an unindicted co-conspirator and said, “I was questioned by the enemy here…they took all my stuff and are investigating it…do not accept calls from anyone.” The indictment further alleges that when Hassan was questioned by agents in an investigation involving international terrorism, she made false statements.
Meanwhile, on Thursday afternoon, Gov. Tim Pawlenty offered a short statement on the indictments:
“This is a stark reminder that the threat of terrorism is not limited to faraway places. We must remain aggressive and vigilant in combating terrorism both at home and abroad.”
Rep. Tim Walz, who represents the Rochester district where Ali and Hassan live, also offered a reaction:
“Terrorists around the world need to clearly understand that this country will never rest until their extremist ideology is eliminated whether it be in Somalia, Afghanistan or on the streets of Rochester. From my experience meeting with our special forces in the Horn of Africa and in meetings with the FBI held in my Rochester office, it is clear we need to remain vigilant and focused on defeating terrorism here and around the world.”