More Terrorism Sentences Imposed in Federal Court
|U.S. Attorney’s Office May 16, 2013|
MINNEAPOLIS—Earlier today in federal court, two Rochester, Minnesota women were sentenced for providing material support to al Shabaab, a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization. United States District Court Chief Judge Michael J. Davis sentenced Amina Farah Ali, age 36, to 240 months in federal prison, followed by supervised release for life, on one count of conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization al Shabaab and 12 counts of providing material support to al Shabaab. Chief Judge Davis also sentenced Hawo Mohamed Hassan, age 66, to 120 months in federal prison, followed by supervised release for life, on one count of conspiracy to provide material support to a terroristic organization and two counts of making false statements to authorities. Both women, who are naturalized U.S. citizens from Somalia, were indicted on July 6, 2010, and were convicted on October 20, 2011. They were remanded into custody following sentencing.
After court, John Carlin, Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security, said, “Today’s sentences and those handed down earlier this week in Minneapolis underscore our commitment to dismantle networks that route funding and fighters from the United States to the al Shabaab terror organization. These cases are the result of an extraordinary, long-term effort by many agents, analysts, and prosecutors, who worked tirelessly to ensure that the defendants were brought to justice.”
U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones added, “Today’s sentencings illustrate yet again the high priority this office has placed on national security cases. Terrorist groups, such as al Shabaab, threaten the safety of Americans, both abroad and here at home. These two defendants provided financial support to this U.S.-designated terrorist organization and then impeded the federal investigation into that matter by lying to authorities. This misguided conduct is unacceptable. With the assistance of our investigative partners, it will continue to be prosecuted vigorously, as was done in this case.”
Evidence presented at their trial proved that the defendants provided support to al Shabaab from September 17, 2008 through July 19, 2009. Specifically, Ali communicated by telephone with Somalia-based members of al Shabaab who requested financial assistance on behalf of the group. Ali, Hassan, and others raised money for the terrorist organization by soliciting funds door-to-door in Somali neighborhoods in Minneapolis, Rochester, and other cities in the U.S. as well as in Canada. Ali often sought the money under false pretenses, contending that it was to help the poor. The defendants also obtained funds by participating in teleconferences that featured speakers who encouraged listeners to make donations in support of al Shabaab.
For example, on October 26, 2008, Ali hosted a teleconference during which an unindicted co-conspirator told listeners that rather than helping the poor and needy in Somalia, they should give to the mujahidin. Ali and Hassan recorded $2,100 in pledges at the conclusion of that teleconference. Then, on February 10, 2009, Ali conducted a fundraising teleconference, during which she told listeners to “forget about the other charities” and focus on “the jihad.”
J. Chris Warrener, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Minneapolis Field Office, which leads the Minnesota Joint Terrorism Task Force, the primary investigative entity in this case, said, “The sentencings today are a culmination of the efforts of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force and its commitment to stop terrorist-related activities in Minnesota. The FBI is pleased with the sentences that were handed down and will work with the community to deter others from engaging in this type of activity.”
Upon garnering funds, Ali and others transferred them to al Shabaab through various money remittance companies. Ali and others used false names to identify the money’s recipients in an effort to conceal that the money was being provided to al Shabaab. Ali directed no fewer than 12 money transfers to al Shabaab.
On July 14, 2009, the day after the FBI executed a search warrant at Ali’s home, she telephoned her primary al Shabaab contact, saying, “I was questioned by the enemy here...they took all my stuff and are investigating it...do not accept calls from anyone.”
As for Hassan, she made at least two false statements when questioned by federal agents about international terrorism.
This case was the result of an investigation by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey S. Paulsen and Steven Ward of the Counterterrorism Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.
Earlier today, Chief Judge Davis sentenced Adarus Abdulle Ali, age 29, of Columbia Heights, to 24 months in federal prison, followed by 36 months of supervised release, for making false statements while testifying before a federal grand jury in regards to a federal investigation known as Operation Rhino. That investigation focused on the disappearance of approximately 20 young, ethnic Somali men from the Twin Cities area during the past six years. The young men were recruited to fight against Ethiopian troops and Somalia’s internationally recognized Transitional Federal Government and later joined al Shabaab. Ali was sentenced today on one count of perjury after being charged with that crime on October 27, 2009, and pleading guilty on November 2, 2009.
In his plea agreement, Ali admitted that on December 17, 2008, he testified to a federal grand jury that he did not know anyone who had traveled to Somalia with Kamal Said Hassan, who was sentenced earlier this week, when, in truth, Ali attended a meeting during which Hassan and others discussed going to Somalia to fight for al Shabaab. In fact, Ali later admitted that he had driven Hassan and another individual to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport for their flights to Somalia.
On Monday of this week, Chief Judge Davis sentenced Hassan, age 28, of Minneapolis, to 120 months in federal prison, followed by 20 years of supervised release, after he pleaded guilty to providing material support to the foreign terrorist organization al Shabaab and to a conspiracy to kill Ethiopian soldiers. He was charged with those crimes on February 18, 2009. Specifically, Hassan had traveled to Somalia, graduated from an al Shabaab training camp, and participated in an al Shabaab ambush of Ethiopian soldiers. On August 12, 2009, he was also charged with and later pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI. Those charges were based on the fact that Hassan lied to FBI agents about his continued involvement with al Shabaab after completing his training in the al Shabaab camp.
Through its investigation, federal authorities learned that groups of men first departed the United States to fight with al Shabaab in Somalia in October and December 2007, with others leaving in February 2008, August 2008, September 2008, November 2008, and October 2009. Upon arriving in Somalia, the men resided in al Shabaab safe houses in Southern Somalia until constructing an al Shabaab training camp, where they were trained from that point on. Senior members of al Shabaab and a senior member of al Qaeda in East Africa conducted those trainings.
In July 2008, men from Minneapolis, as well as other Americans, participated in an al Shabaab ambush of Ethiopian troops. On October 29, 2008, one of those men, Shirwa Ahmed, who left Minneapolis in December 2007, detonated a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device as one of five coordinated suicide bombings in Bosaso and Hargeisa, Somalia. Ahmed is believed to have become the first American suicide bomber in Somalia. On May 30, 2011, Farah Mohamed Beledi, an indicted individual who departed Minnesota in October 2009, was killed at a checkpoint in Somalia as he attempted to detonate his suicide vest. To date, approximately 18 individuals have been charged through Operation Rhino, and eight have been convicted. The remaining ten are believed to be fugitives or have been killed in Somalia.
On Monday, Chief Judge Davis also sentenced Mahamud Said Omar, also known as Sharif Omar, age 46, of Minneapolis, to 240 months in federal prison, followed by life-long supervised release for conspiring to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization and conspiring to kill, kidnap, maim, and injure overseas. He was arrested in Netherlands in November 2009 and extradited to the U.S. in August 2011. In October 2012, he was tried and convicted of these crimes.
On Tuesday of this week, Chief Judge Davis sentenced Omer Abdi Mohamed, age 28, of Minneapolis, to 144 months in federal prison, followed by 20 years of supervised release, after earlier pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to provide material support to co-conspirators who intended to kill, kidnap, and main Ethiopian and Somali government troops. Abdifatah Yusuf Isse, Salah Osman Ahmed, and Ahmed Hussein Mahamud were each sentenced to 36 months in federal prison, followed by 20 years of supervised release, after earlier pleading guilty to related charges. Isse, Ahmed, and Mahamud cooperated with the United States and testified at the trial of Mahamud Said Omar.
This case resulted from a long-term investigation conducted by the FBI’s Minneapolis Joint Terrorism Task Force. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Charles J. Kovats, John Docherty, and LeeAnn K. Bell and William M. Narus of the Counterterrorism Section of the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Security Division.