Somali man faces 'terror' charges in US

2011-06-10 10:27
Minneapolis - A Somali man who lived in Minnesota until a few months ago has been accused of providing money and people to the terror group al-Shabaab in Somalia, according to an indictment unsealed on Thursday.

Ahmed Hussein Mahamud, 26, was arrested on Thursday at his home in a suburb of Columbus, Ohio, and made his initial appearance in federal court there. The US attorney's office says he'll be brought to Minnesota to face four counts, including providing material support to a foreign terrorist organisation and conspiracy to provide such support.

Also on Thursday, authorities confirmed that a Minnesota man was one of the suicide bombers in a May 30 attack in Mogadishu. The FBI said it used fingerprints to identify Farah Mohamed Beledi, 27.

Mahamud is now the 18th person charged in Minnesota in connection with the travels of young men who went to Somalia to join al-Shabab.

Authorities said Mahamud, a US citizen of Somali descent, lived in Eden Prairie until February, then moved to Ohio. It was not immediately clear whether he had an attorney. Working phone numbers for possible relatives of Mahamud could not immediately be found.

The indictment, filed two days ago, does not accuse Mahamud of travelling to Somalia, but it suggests he helped others who did. It says that from April 2009 to July 2009, Mahamud provided "money to al-Shabaab and personnel to work under al-Shabaab's direction and control, knowing that al-Shabaab has been designated as a foreign terrorist organisation".

Series of co-ordinated explosions

It also says he conspired with others to provide people and financial resources to al-Shabaab, from an unknown date to the present. The US government says al-Shabaab has ties to al-Qaeda.

More than 20 young men have travelled from Minnesota to Somalia since September 2007 to train with al-Shabaab. Authorities said many have gone on to take up arms with the terror group as it has been fighting in Somalia.

Some of those men have died, including Shirwa Ahmed of Minneapolis, the first known American suicide bomber in Somalia. He blew himself up in October 2008, in the northern breakaway republic of Somaliland as part of a series of co-ordinated explosions that killed 21 people.

Beledi is also now among the dead. Authorities believe he left Minnesota in October 2009 and drove cross-country to the US-Mexico border, then went to Somalia.

Authorities say he was one of two suicide bombers in the May 30 attack at a government checkpoint in Mogadishu that killed two African Union troops and one government soldier. Somalia officials said the attack began with a firefight, in which one suicide bomber was shot before his explosive detonated.

When asked about Beledi this week, officials at the Abubakar As-Saddique Islamic Center, the largest mosque in Minnesota, said it shared the pain of Beledi's family members and would help support them.

The mosque said Beledi was never a mosque employee. "Rather, he was one of the youth who wanted to take advantage, participate, and sometimes volunteer in our youth programs," the mosque said in a statement. Beledi, a gang member who had lost touch with his family and run into trouble with the law, spoke at a public open house at the mosque in February 2009 - months before he left the US.

The mosque says it "has not, and will not, recruit for any political cause, nor allow others to do so at the Centre". The FBI has said there has been no evidence mosque leaders were responsible for recruiting.

Chaos

Dahir Jabreel, executive director of the Somali Justice Advocacy Centre in Minnesota, said the new charges bring mixed feelings. He said while he is happy law enforcement can find those who intend to do harm, he said it "can create more negative perception in the main-stream Americans."

"It's bad news for us in many ways," he said. "The more you hear that people are involved in bad things like this, the more that people will feel uneasiness about the community."

"The Somali Americans in the United States are very, very strongly against anybody trying to harm the security of the United States," he added.

Over the past three years, Minnesota has been the center of a federal investigation into recruiting of people from the US to train or fight with al-Shabab. The Minnesota investigation continues.

In addition, two Minnesota women are also charged with alleged terror financing, and others have been charged in San Diego and St Louis for allegedly funnelling money to al-Shabaab.

Somalia has not had a functioning government since 1991, when warlords overthrew a socialist dictator and then turned on each other, causing chaos in the African nation of seven million.

Minnesota is home to the largest Somali population in the United States.

- AP
Read more on:    us  |  somalia  |  east africa
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