1. Various developments in the Minneapolis/Somalia investigation
Several new developments in the ongoing investigation into the recruitment of young men in the Minneapolis area to travel to Somalia to join al-Shabaab, according to this DOJ National Security Division announcement. Unfortunately the announcement does not link to the underlying documents (hint, hint), but in any event here is the gist of the announcement:
Terrorism charges have been unsealed today 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.
Thus far, 14 defendants have been charged in the District of Minnesota through indictments or criminal complaints that have been unsealed and brought in connection with an ongoing investigation into the recruitment of persons from U.S. communities to train with or fight on behalf of extremist groups in Somalia. Four of these defendants have previously pleaded guilty and await sentencing.
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.
The Justice Department announced that three charging documents were unsealed this morning in the District of Minnesota:
United States v. Mahamud Said Omar, 09-CR-242
On Aug. 20, 2009, a federal grand jury returned a five-count indictment charging Mahamud Said Omar with terrorism offenses. According to the indictment, from September 2007 through the present, Omar, who is a Somali citizen but was granted permanent U.S. resident status in 1994, conspired with others to provide financial assistance as well as personnel to terrorists and foreign terrorist organizations. On Nov. 8, 2009, law enforcement authorities in the Netherlands arrested Omar according to a provisional arrest warrant. The United States has filed its request for extradition. According to documents unsealed this morning, including affidavits in support of the United States’ request for extradition of Omar from the Netherlands, Omar provided money to young men to travel from Minneapolis to Somalia to train with and fight for al-Shabaab. Omar also allegedly visited an al-Shabaab safe-house and provided hundreds of dollars to fund the purchase of AK-47 rifles for men from Minneapolis.
Omar is in custody in the Netherlands.
United States v. Ahmed Ali Omar, Khalid Mohamud Abshir, Zakaria Maruf, Mohamed Abdullahi Hassan and Mustafa Ali Salat, 09-CR-50
On Aug. 20, 2009, a federal grand jury returned a second superseding indictment charging Ahmed Ali Omar, Khalid Abshir, Zakaria Maruf, Mohamed Hassan and Mustafa Salat with terrorism-related offenses. These men were charged in the summer of 2009 with conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and foreign terrorist organizations; conspiracy to kill, kidnap, maim and injure people outside the United States; possessing and discharging a firearm during a crime of violence; and solicitation to commit a crime of violence. The indictments that detail the charges filed against these co-conspirators also were unsealed today.
None of the five defendants is in custody. All five are believed to be outside of the United States.
United States v. Cabdulaahi Ahmed Faarax
United States v. Abdiweli Yassin Isse
On Oct. 9, 2009, a criminal complaint was filed, charging Cabdulaahi Ahmed Faarax and Abdiweli Yassin Isse with conspiring to kill, kidnap, maim or injure persons outside the United States. The affidavit filed in support of the complaint states that in the fall of 2007, Faarax and others met at a Minneapolis mosque to telephone co-conspirators in Somalia to discuss the need for Minnesota-based co-conspirators to go to Somalia to fight the Ethiopians. The affidavit also alleges that later that fall, Faarax attended a meeting with co-conspirators at a Minneapolis residence, where he encouraged others to travel to Somalia to fight and told them how he had experienced true brotherhood while fighting a “jihad” in Somalia. Subsequently, Faarax was interviewed three times by authorities and each time denied fighting or knowing anyone who had fought in Somalia.
The criminal complaint states that Abdiweli Yassin Isse also encouraged others to travel to Somalia to fight the Ethiopians. He purportedly described at a gathering of co-conspirators his own plans to fight “jihad” against Ethiopians, and he raised money to buy airplane tickets for others to make the trip to Somalia for the same purpose. In raising that money, he allegedly misled community members into thinking they were contributing money to send young men to Saudi Arabia to study the Koran. The complaint that details the charges filed against these co-conspirators also was unsealed today.
Faarax and Isse are not in custody. Both men are believed to be outside of the United States.
The Justice Department also announced that four residents of Minneapolis have entered guilty pleas in connection with this investigation; one resident of Minneapolis awaits trial on charges that he made false statements to the FBI, and one resident of Minneapolis was recently indicted on related charges.
United States v. Kamal Hassan, 09-CR-38
On Feb. 18, 2009, Kamal Said Hassan pleaded guilty to one count of providing material support to terrorists and one count of providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization, respectively. On Aug. 12, 2009, Hassan pleaded guilty to one count of making false statements to the FBI.
Hassan is in custody awaiting sentencing.
United States v. Abdifatah Yusuf Isse, 09-CR-50
United States v. Salah Osman Ahmed, 09-CR-50
On April 24, 2009, Abdifatah Yusuf Isse entered a guilty plea to one count of providing material support to terrorists. On July 28, 2009, Salah Osman Ahmed entered a guilty plea to one count of providing material support to terrorists.
Isse and Ahmed are in custody awaiting sentencing.
United States v. Adarus Abdulle Ali
On Nov. 2, 2009, Adarus Abdulle Ali pleaded guilty to an information charging him with one count of perjury for making false statements to a federal grand jury in December of 2008.
Ali has been released pending a sentencing hearing.
Additional Pending Cases
United States v. Abdow Munye Abdow
On Oct. 13, 2009, a federal grand jury returned a two-count indictment charging Abdow Munye Abdow with making false statements to the FBI. The indictment alleges that on Oct. 8, 2009, Abdow lied to FBI agents when he was questioned after returning to Minnesota from a road trip to southern California. Abdow purportedly told the agents only one other person traveled with him when, according to officials, four people accompanied him. In addition, Adbow allegedly told the agents he did not know how the rental car in which he rode had been financed when, according to officials, he had used his own debit card to pay for the car.
Abdow has been released pending trial.
United States v. Omer Abdi Mohamed
On Nov. 19, 2009, Omer Abdi Mohamed was arrested on charges that he conspired to provide material support to terrorists; that he provided material support to terrorists; and that he conspired to kill, kidnap, maim and injure persons outside the United States.
Mohamed has been released pending trial.
2. United States v. Tarraf (E.D. Pa. Nov. 23)
DOJ NSD also has announced the unsealing of a complaint against Dani Nemr Tarraf and four other defendants on a variety of offenses including a conspiracy to acquire surface-to-air missiles. From the press release:
A criminal complaint, unsealed today, charged Dani Nemr Tarraf with conspiring to acquire anti-aircraft missiles (FIM-92 Stingers) and conspiring to possess machine guns (approximately 10,000 Colt M4 Carbines). In addition, Tarraf and other defendants — including Douri Nemr Tarraf, Hassan Mohamad Komeiha, and Hussein Ali Asfour — were charged with conspiring to transport stolen goods. Dani Nemr Tarraf and Ali Fadel Yahfoufi were charged with conspiring to commit passport fraud.
According to the complaint, Hassan Mohamad Komeiha began purchasing purportedly stolen cellular telephones from a law enforcement officer acting in an undercover capacity (the “UC”) in or about June 2007. Over the next several months, Komeiha and his co-conspirators [Dani Nemr Tarraf, Douri Nemr Tarraf, and Hussein Ali Asfour] purchased purportedly stolen goods from the UC, including cellular telephones, laptop computers, Sony Play Station 2 systems and automobiles.
The complaint also alleges that Dani Nemr Tarraf conspired to acquire anti-aircraft missiles and conspired to possess machine guns. According to the complaint, in or about mid-June 2009, Tarraf asked whether the UC could supply guided missiles and told the UC that he (Tarraf) wanted the UC to export approximately 10,000 “commando” machine guns [Colt M4 Carbines with short barrels] from the United States. On or about July 28, 2009, in Philadelphia, Tarraf paid the UC a deposit of approximately $20,000 toward the cost of purchasing FIM-92 Stinger missiles and approximately 10,000 Colt M4 Carbines and shipping these items outside the United States.
Finally, the complaint alleges that Dani Nemr Tarraf and his assistant, Ali Fadel Yahfoufi, conspired to commit passport fraud. In furtherance of their scheme, Yahfoufi provided passport photos of himself to the UC, Tarraf agreed to pay the UC to obtain a U.S. passport in Yahfoufi’s name, and Yahfoufi instructed the UC to submit false information to the U.S. government in a passport application.
- Dani Nemr Tarraf, of Trnava, Slovakia, was born in 1971 and faces a potential maximum sentence of life imprisonment if convicted.
- Douri Nemr Tarraf, of Trnava, Slovakia, was born in 1973 and faces a potential maximum sentence of five years imprisonment if convicted.
- Hassan Mohamad Komeiha, of Lebanon and Dearborn, Mich., was born in 1970 and faces a potential maximum sentence of five years imprisonment if convicted.
- Hussein Ali Asfour, a/k/a “Alex,” of Centreville, Ga., was born in 1976 and faces a potential maximum sentence of five years imprisonment if convicted.
- Ali Fadel Yahfoufi, of Trnava, Slovakia, was born in 1969 and faces a potential maximum sentence of five years in prison if convicted.