A Minneapolis man faces up to 15 years in prison after admitting to helping young men travel to Somalia to fight. Omer Abdi Mohamed, 26, appeared in federal court Monday and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to provide material support for terrorism, according to the Department of Justice.
According to the plea agreement, between September and December of 2007 Mohamed helped young men go to Somalia to "fight against Ethiopian troops who were in Somalia assisting the internationally-recognized Transitional Federal Government." In a news release, the government said Mohamed knew that once the men reached Somalia they "intended to murder, kidnap, or maim Ethiopian and Somali government troops."
Mohamed admitted going to meetings at a mosque, a restaurant and a home where sending young men to Somalia was discussed and travel funds were raised. According to the plea agreement, Mohamed also said he helped some men get their plane tickets and in one case helped procure a false itinerary to mislead one man's family about his travel plans.
Peter Wold, Mohamed's lawyer, said his client, a naturalized U.S. citizen, wanted to help men go to Somalia to fight Ethiopians he believed had invaded the country he left at age 10. But Wold insisted, "He (Mohamed) never had any association with Al-Shabaab," designated as a foreign terrorist group by the U.S. government. Wold told CNN when Mohamed learned some of the young men had joined up with Al-Shabaab he tried to convince them to return to the United States.
According to Wold, Mohamed knew Shirwa Ahmed who blew up an improvised explosive device in a vehicle in October 2008 and became the first known American suicide bomber in Somalia. But Wold said his client was not involved in getting Ahmed entangled with Al-Shabaab and was "stunned" by what happened to him.
In a statement, Minnesota U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones said Mohamed and other conspirators "tore apart many Somali-American families." Jones said in some cases families only found out what happened to their children when they saw Al-Shabaab propaganda videos on the Internet.
Before the plea agreement, Mohamed faced a total of six terrorism and firearms charges and if convicted could have received more than 50 years in prison, said his lawyer.