ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP/WCCO) — Six young Minnesota men have been charged with terrorism, accused of traveling or attempting to travel to Syria to join ISIS.
The indictment said the men were recruited by another young Minnesotan who has been with ISIS for more than a year.
The six, whom authorities described as friends who met secretly to plan their travels, are accused of conspiracy to provide material support and attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization. The complaint says the men planned to reach Syria by flying to nearby countries from Minneapolis, San Diego or New York City, and lied to federal investigators when they were stopped.
Charged are Mohamed Abdihamid Farah, 21; Adnan Abdihamid Farah, 19; Abdurahman Yasin Daud, 21; Zacharia Yusuf Abdurahman, 19; Hanad Mustafe Musse, 19; and Guled Ali Omar, 20.
At least fifty members of the Somali community — some of them family members of the young men — arrived in federal court for the hearing Monday afternoon.
The four defendants, including Hanad Musse and Adnan Farah, appeared briefly — all were given public defenders . They are all charged with conspiring to leave the country to join ISIS.
They tried repeatedly to leave the country but were stopped from boarding planes in New York and the Twin Cities.
Two of the six defendants, Adnan Farah and Mohammed Farah, are brothers. After Monday’s court hearing, their father told WCCO he believes his sons are innocent.
Omar Jamal, a local activist in the Somali community, says the government’s case is thin.
“The community and family members really believe there’s some entrapment involved in this case,” Jamal said. “The facts will come out in detail later.”
The FBI has been monitoring this group of friends for 10 months. During that time, one member of the group backed out and began working as an informant.
The informant began recording his conversations with the group, providing what prosecutors said is overwhelming evidence that these men were determined to fight for ISIS.
“One friend in this group decided to leave and to cooperate with the FBI,” U.S. Attorney Andy Luger said.
At a news conference Monday, Luger said that the friend-turned-informant’s recordings revealed the extent of the plot.
“The cooperating witness provides an inside view into the thinking of the conspirators and the depth of their commitment to joining ISIL. These recordings also capture the critical role played by Abdi Nur,” Luger said.
Nur, another young Minnesotan, left in 2014 and is now fighting for ISIS. The recordings revealed that Nur helped recruit the six men charged and was able to provide them with money.
The indictment also revealed that Nur was a friend and helped recruit Abudlahi Yusuf, another young Minnesotan who was charged with trying to join ISIS last November.
“Nur has become a de facto foreign fighter recruiter for those in Minnesota. As explained in the complaint, he is in regular contact with his friends. He advises them and he serves as an inspiration for those who want to replicate his success,” Luger said.
The indictment said over the 10-month period some of the young men were stopped from boarding planes in Minneapolis, others at JFK in New York.
But the case confirms again that Minnesota is a top terror recruiting target.
The Minneapolis area is home to the largest concentration of Somali immigrants in the U.S. Since 2007, more than 22 young Somali men have also traveled from Minnesota to Somalia to join the militant group al-Shabaab.
“To be clear, we have a terror recruiting problem in Minnesota and this case demonstrates how difficult to put an end to recruiting here,” Luger said.
The two young men who were arrested in California will be appearing in court there.
(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)