Terror Charges: From Minneapolis to Somalia

Muslims in Mumbai protest against terrorismImage by Bird Eye via Flickr

Yesterday, terrorism charges were unsealed in the District of Minnesota against eight defendants. According to the charging documents, the offenses include providing financial support to those who traveled to Somalia to fight on behalf of al-Shabaab, a designated foreign terrorist organization; attending terrorist training camps operated by al-Shabaab; and fighting on behalf of al-Shabaab.

The charges were announced November 23 by David Kris, Assistant Attorney General for National Security; B. Todd Jones, U.S. Attorney for the District of Minneapolis; and Ralph S. Boelter, Special Agent in Charge of the Minneapolis field office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

“The recruitment of young people from Minneapolis and other U.S. communities to fight for extremists in Somalia has been the focus of intense investigation for many months,” Assistant Attorney General Kris said. “While the charges unsealed today underscore our progress to date, this investigation is ongoing. Those who sign up to fight or recruit for al-Shabaab’s terror network should be aware that they may well end up as defendants in the United States or casualties of the Somali conflict.”

According to court documents, between September 2007 and October 2009, approximately 20 young men, all but one of Somali descent, left the Minneapolis area and traveled to Somalia, where they trained with al-Shabaab, a designated terrorist organization. Many of them ultimately fought with al-Shabaab against Ethiopian forces, African Union troops, and the internationally-supported Transitional Federal Government (TFG).

Court documents also state that the first group of six men traveled to Somalia in December 2007. Prior to their departure, the six men, as well as others in the Minneapolis area, raised money for the trips and held meetings in which they made phone calls to alleged co-conspirators in Somalia.

Upon arriving in Somalia, the men from Minneapolis allegedly stayed at safe-houses in Somalia and attended an al-Shabaab training camp. The al-Shabaab training camp included dozens of other young ethnic Somalis from Somalia, elsewhere in Africa, Europe and the United States. Purportedly, the trainees were trained by, among others, Somali, Arab and Western instructors in the use of small arms, machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and military-style tactics. Allegedly, the trainees also were indoctrinated with anti-Ethiopian, anti-American, anti-Israeli and anti-Western beliefs.

According to court documents, on Oct. 29, 2008, Shirwa Ahmed, one of the men who left Minnesota in December 2007 and attended the al-Shabaab training camp, took part in one of five simultaneous suicide attacks on targets in northern Somalia. The attacks appeared to have been coordinated. Shirwa Mohamud Ahmed, also known as “Shirwa,” drove an explosive-laden Toyota truck into an office of the Puntland Intelligence Service in Bossasso, Puntland. Other targets included a second Puntland Intelligence Service Office in Bossasso, the Presidential Palace, the United Nations Development Program office and the Ethiopian Trade Mission in Hargeisa. Including the suicide bombers, approximately twenty people were killed in the attacks.

Read the whole thing here.

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