Mahamud Said Omar found guilty of helping al-Shabab

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A federal jury found a Minneapolis man guilty of helping other local men travel to Somalia to fight with terrorist group al-Shabab on Thursday.

Mahamud Said Omar, 46, was convicted of aiding a terrorist group and conspiring to kidnap, maim or kill overseas.

The government built its case over nine days with telephone records showing contact between Omar and six men who left the U.S. for Somalia in November 2008. The trial was the public’s first look at a massive FBI investigation into the exodus of a total 20 men from Minneapolis to Somalia. They left to join al-Shabab and fight against what they saw as invading Ethiopian troops in their home country.

Two of those men were University of Minnesota students at the time of their departure. Both are now presumed dead.

The defense maintained that Omar was a “little man” without the means to organize and fund such a large-scale effort.

The jury spent less than 10 hours deliberating — the government and defense did their closing arguments just Wednesday afternoon. The jurors, eight women and four men, deliberated for a couple hours Wednesday afternoon and came to a consensus Thursday at about 3:30 p.m.

The courtroom was full for the reading of the verdict. Omar appeared as he had throughout the trial: calm and in a simple black suit and white button-down shirt.

After Chief U.S. District Judge Michael Davis thanked and dismissed jurors, Omar was escorted back into custody.

Omar smiled and stretched his arms up and waved at his family, who filled the back benches on his side of the courtroom.

He’ll next see court for his sentencing. He faces a maximum of life in prison.

Omar has the option of appealing his case.

“The jury has spoken,” Somali community activist Sadik Warfa said after the verdict. “I have faith in the American justice system … the government proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Now, Warfa said, “we have to move on.”

Omar Jamal, a representative from the United Nations who attended the trial with Omar’s family, said the family is “quite shocked” at the verdict and that they expected jurors to find Omar not guilty.

Omar’s three brothers, their wives and other extended family attended throughout the three-week trial, Jamal said.

The family is devastated and “not saying much” right now,” he said.

“I think there are more people out there, the leaders of these people who are responsible [for] taking those kids into harm’s way, sending them back to Somalia,” Jamal said.

“They’re still out there.”