MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Another young terror suspect pleaded guilty in federal court Monday to trying to join the Islamic State.
Hamza Ahmed also pleaded guilty to draining his federal student loan account to help finance his trip to Syria.
The 21-year-old became the sixth young terror suspect to plead guilty in the terror case.
The plea comes just two weeks before the three remaining defendants are scheduled to go on trial.
At the morning hearing, a government prosecutor said Ahmed was offered the plea deal again because of “impermissible interference” that kept him from having a real chance to review the first plea deal offer.
In a highly unusual move, Ahmed was given a second chance at a plea deal that he had earlier rejected.
Earlier this month, another defendant, 20-year-old Adnan Farah, was also given a second chance at a deal and also pleaded guilty.
In both cases, prosecutors said the second chance was because of interference with the first plea offer.
While prosecutors did not name the source of the interference, the second chance offers have come just weeks after another attorney in the case filed a motion, saying prominent Twin Cities imam Hassan Mahamoud, who at one time was part of another defendant’s defense team, had influenced family members to keep the young men from pleading guilty.
The imam has declined to comment and is no longer part of the case.
At Monday’s hearing, Ahmed admitted plotting with his 10 other coconspirators to go to Syria and join ISIS.
He described using $2,700 of federal student loan money intended for tuition at Minneapolis Community and Technical College to buy a greyhound bus ticket in 2014 to travel to John F. Kennedy International Airport with the goal of going to Syria.
But FBI agents kept him and three other defendants from getting on those planes.
With this plea deal, Ahmed faces a maximum of 20 years in prison. He had been facing life in prison if convicted.
Now three of the original 10 suspects charged in the terror case will be going to trial. They all face life sentences.