Feds Announce Terror Charges And ArrestsAugust 5, 2010 - 5:07 PM | by: Mike Levine
Marking the latest in a growing number of terrorism cases involving an Al Qaeda-linked group in Somalia, federal authorities have unsealed charges against 14 people for allegedly supporting and in some cases fund-raising for the group.
Among the charges unsealed was a years-old indictment against one the group’s most prominent figures, Alabama-born Omar Hamammi, who has become a star of recruitment videos for the group and an “operational” figure within the group, known as Al Shabab. He is believed to still be in Somalia.
In the United States, federal authorities arrested two individuals early Thursday morning near Minneapolis, accusing the naturalized U.S. citizens of raising funds for Al Shabab “by soliciting door-to-door” in Minnesota’s Somali communities.
Indictments were also unsealed against six more suspects in Minneapolis and San Diego, charging them with providing material support to a terrorist group after allegedly traveling to Somalia to join Al Shabab.
“While our investigations are ongoing around the country, these arrests and charges should serve as an unmistakable warning to others considering joining terrorist groups like al-Shabab: If you choose this route you can expect to find yourself in a U.S. jail cell or a casualty on the battlefield in Somalia,” Attorney General Eric Holder said during a press conference on Thursday announcing the new charges.
According to one of the indictments unsealed in Minneapolis, Amina Farah Ali and Hawo Mohamed Hassan of Rochester, Minn., raised funds for Al Shabab by telling potential donors that “the funds were for the poor and needy.” The indictment also said seven others, including unidentified individuals in Minneapolis and Columbus, Ohio, helped Ali and Hallan “collect and forward funds to Al Shabab.”
For more than two years, the FBI has been investigating how dozens of Americans from Minneapolis and elswhere were recruited to train and fight alongside the Somalia-based group, known as Al Shabab.
With Thursday’s announcement, 19 people have now been charged in the case. Several had already been charged in Minneapolis, and five of nine arrested have already pleaded guilty. 10 of the defendants are believed to be overseas.
Federal authorities have long worried that Al Shabab, which claimed responsibility for the recent attacks in Uganda and has pledged its allegiance to Usama bin Laden, could try to launch attacks inside the United States.
In fact, in a May 21 intelligence bulletin, federal authorities noted that “Hammami has appeared in [Al Shabab] media productions urging individuals to travel to Somalia to take part in terrorist training.”
“We cannot exclude the possibility that U.S. persons aligned with [Al Shabab] in the Horn of Africa may return to the U.S., possibly to carry out acts of violence.”
At the press conference on Thursday, Attorney General Holder said the U.S. government does not have “any direct evidence that Al Shabab is threatening the homeland.” But, he said, Al Shabab’s recruitment inside the United States and its attack in Uganda “give us pause.”
Fox News was the first news organization to uncover Hammami’s identity and report that a grand jury had indicted him on charges of providing material support to a terrorist group. In a motion to unseal the case against him, prosecutors said Thursday that “widespread public and press discussion of the case and indictment” helped diminish a need to keep the case sealed.
All this comes one day after federal agents arrested a 26-year-old Chicago man, just hours before he was scheduled to leave for Somalia, according to federal prosecutors. Shaker Masri had been under investigation for 18 months, but in the past month he “began to actively plan” a trip to Somalia, where he hoped to launch a suicide attack targeting “infidels” on behalf of Al Shabab or Al Qaeda, prosecutors said. He is now charged with providing material support to a terrorist organization.
Somalia has had no stable government since 1991, when dictator Siad Barre was ousted from power. Despite limited assistance from the United States and other countries, the transitional government in Somalia has had trouble keeping Muslim militants at bay. Al Shabab in particular has continued to gain ground there. Fighting intensified in 2006, after Western-backed Ethiopian forces invaded Somalia, a move that angered many Somalis around the world.