Two Somali-Americans have been indicted in a Minneapolis District Court for training with an Al Qaeda-linked terrorist group in Somalia.
Abdifatah Yusuf Isse, 25, of Seattle, and Salah Osman Ahmed, 26, of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, have been charged with providing material support to terrorists and conspiracy to kill, kidnap, maim and injure, according to a federal indictment that was unsealed on July 13, 2009.
Isse and Ahmed are the first two men charged in a federal investigation into the recruitment of Somali-Americans by militants in Somalia. According to authorities, in the past two years approximately 20 young Somali-American men, mostly from the Minneapolis area, have traveled to Somalia to join Al Shabaab (Arabic for "the Youth"), a U.S.-designated terrorist group that seeks to overthrow the Somali government.
Isse pleaded guilty to a single count of providing material support in April 2009. Ahmed pleaded not guilty to the charges, as well as to two other counts of making false statements. Ahmed, a former student at North Hennepin Community College, parking lot attendant and security guard, told the FBI in December 2008 that he did not know anyone else on the flight he took to Somalia in 2007, according to the indictment.
However, Ahmed and Isse traveled to Somalia "so that they could join jihad,"according to the indictment. In Somalia, they reportedly stayed in safe houses run by Al Shabaab.
Isse, a former economics major at Eastern Washington University, reportedly indicated that he was recruited "at a house of worship" to fight in Somalia. After helping construct a terrorist training camp in Somalia, he left the camp to stay with relatives in the country.
Isse also admitted to investigators that he had contact in Somalia with Shirwa Ahmed, reportedly the first known American suicide bomber. Ahmed, a naturalized U.S. citizen, carried out a suicide attack in October 2008 on the United Nations compound, the Ethiopian Consulate and the presidential palace in Hargeisa, killing 24 people.
In addition to Minnesota and Somalia, Isse reportedly traveled within the past few years to Seattle. A Muslim convert from Seattle, Ruben Shumpert, allegedly fled to Somalia while free on bond after pleading guilty to possession of a firearm and transferring counterfeit U.S. currency. He was killed by a missile strike there in 2008 and officials suspect he was also working with Al Shabaab when he was killed.
Al Shabaab has released several propaganda videos featuring Abu Mansour al Amriki (Arabic for "Abu Mansour the American"), an alleged commander of Al Shabaab who has been identified as Omar Hammami, an American citizen from Alabama. In one video, released in July 2009, Abu Mansour justified the September 11 terrorist attacks, criticized the U.S. for its relationship with Israel "the most vicious evil nation of this modern era," mocked the Holocaust, rejected democracy and affirmed Al Shabaab's allegiance to Al Qaeda. In another propaganda video released in March 2009, he urged foreigners "to come and live the life of a mujahid" in Somalia.