MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A 19-year-old terror suspect changed his plea in federal court on Wednesday, admitting that he wanted to join ISIS.
Hanad Musse is one of seven young Twin Cities men whom prosecutors say repeatedly tried to leave the country to join the terror group. All seven were supposed to stand trial in February, but sources tell WCCO-TV that at least three other young defendants are also in talks to plead guilty.
“I committed a terrorist act, and I am guilty,” Musse said in court.
He pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy. Two other counts, including one accusing him of using federal student loan money to finance his trip to Syria, were dropped.
Under questioning by Judge Michael Davis, Musse said he initially wanted to join ISIS in the spring of 2014, because he considered the group “freedom fighters” who were battling to “save the oppressed people of Syria” from the forces of Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad.
But Musse said he later became fully aware of ISIS brutality, including the beheadings and massacres. Still, he tried to leave the country to join the group.
He testified that his last attempt to leave the country, in April of 2015, was aborted only because his father confronted him.
Wednesday’s guilty plea is an enormous boost to prosecutors, whose case has rested primarily on secret tape recordings made by a confidential informant who the government has so far paid $41,000.
Now Musse could be called as a witness for the prosecution.
Sources tell WCCO-TV that at least three other defendants are in plea talks with the government. U.S. Attorney Andy Luger said he could not comment on any aspect of the case including any plea negotiations.
Speaking at the unveiling of a new federal pilot program aimed at preventing terror recruiting, Luger said the guilty plea emphasizes how much the pilot program is needed.
“The terrorists will not stop recruiting our youth we have to prevent them from being successful,” he said.
If Musse had been convicted on all counts at trial, he would have faced a maximum of 35 years in prison.
Now under the plea deal, he faces a maximum sentence of 15 years. Under federal guidelines, he could be released in 13 years with good behavior.