A series of nationwide arrests and indictments announced on the same day illustrate the efforts of a Somali terrorist group to recruit Americans and other English-speakers.
On August 5, 2010, federal authorities unsealed four separate indictments charging a total of 14 U.S. residents with providing material support to terrorists for their various connections to Al Shabaab, an Al Qaeda-linked terrorist organization based in Somalia. Two American women charged in these indictments for raising funds for Al Shabaab were arrested that same day.
"We are seeing an increasing number of individuals – including U.S. citizens – who have become captivated by extremist ideology and have taken steps to carry out terrorist objectives, either at home or abroad," Attorney General Eric Holder said. "The indictments unsealed today shed further light on a deadly pipeline that has routed funding and fighters to the Al Shabaab terror organization from cities across the United States."
An indictment unsealed in an Alabama federal court charged American citizen Omar Hammami, 26, with providing material support to Al Shabaab. Hammami, who remains at large, has risen through the ranks of Al Shabaab since arriving in Somalia in late 2006 and has become the public face and voice of the terrorist group. Hammami has issued written statements on behalf of Al Shabaab and has appeared in the terror organization's propaganda videos and audio recordings, in which he urges Somali-American men to join its insurgency.
A separate indictment unsealed in California charged another American citizen, Jehad Serwan Mostafa, 28, with conspiring to provide material support to Al Shabaab and with fighting with the Somali-based terrorist group. Mostafa, a former student at the University of California San Diego, allegedly left the U.S. in 2005 and remains at large.
Two other Americans whose indictments were unsealed on August 5, 2010, were arrested in Minnesota that same day for allegedly raising funds for Al Shabaab through door-to-door solicitations in various Somali communities in the region.
According to the indictment, Amina Farah Ali, 33, and Hawo Mohamed Hassan, 63, both naturalized U.S. citizens from Somalia, also solicited financial contributions to support terrorist activities in Somalia during various fundraising teleconferences. During a February 2009 teleconference, for example, Ali allegedly told listeners to "forget about the other charities" and focus on "the jihad."
The indictment further alleges that Ali raised funds for Al Shabaab "under the false pretense that the funds were for the poor and needy." Ali allegedly transmitted these funds through the hawala system, which legally transfers money across borders using a network of individuals on an honor code instead of banks with traceable records. She and Hassan have also been charged with making false statements for telling federal agents that they had never sent money to Somalia through the hawala system.
Ali and Hassan are among a small group of American women charged with terror-related offenses in the U.S.
That same day, ten other people from Minnesota were charged in an unsealed indictment for a variety of terror charges, including providing financial support and personnel to a conspiracy to kill abroad and to Al Shabaab.
Five of the suspects – American citizens Abdikadir Ali Abdi, 19, Abdisalan Hussein Ali, 21, Cabdulaahi Ahmed Faarax, 33, and Minnesota residents Farah Mohamed Beledi, 26 and Abdiweli Yassin Isse, 26 – allegedly traveled to Somalia in 2008 and 2009. Both Isse and Faarax, who were previously charged in a criminal complaint, also allegedly encouraged others to travel to Somalia to fight.
In the fall of 2007, Faarax and others met at a Minneapolis mosque to discuss the need for "Minnesota-based co-conspirators to go to Somalia to fight," according to court documents. At a subsequent meeting, Faarax allegedly encouraged the others to fight in Somalia. Among those Faarax allegedly solicited to support Al Shabaab are Salah Osman Ahmed and Kamal Said Hassan, two American citizens who have since pleaded guilty to traveling to Somalia to join Al Shabaab. Faarax also allegedly recruited Shirwa Ahmed, the first known American suicide bomber, to support the Somali-based terrorist organization.
The other suspects named in the indictment – Minnesota resident Khalid Mohamud Abshir, 27, and U.S. permanent residents Ahmed Ali Omar, 27, Zakaria Maruf, 31, Mohamed Abdullahi Hassan, 22, Mustafa Ali Salat, 20 – were previously charged for similar terror offenses relating to their alleged involvement with Al Shabaab.
The indictments unsealed on August 5 immediately follow a separate investigation in which an American citizen from Chicago was arrested and charged for planning to travel to Somalia to join Al Shabaab. Shaker Masri, who was arrested on August 3, 2010, allegedly mapped various routes to Somalia to avoid detection by American federal authorities. Masri also stated his intentions to become a suicide bomber in Somalia. "I will not stay idle," he said in July 2010. "I wish to know how to the explosive belt is made… I will wear one and I will not take it off."
Since the fall of 2007, at least 20 Somali-Americans have traveled to Somalia to join Al Shabaab. Several other Americans have been charged with attempting to leave the U.S. to join the Somali-based terrorist group.