MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Minnesota terrorist, who recruited friends to fight for ISIS, says online videos made him feel special.
Abdirizak Warsame, 21, recently sat down to speak with CBS Evening News anchor and “60 Minutes” correspondent Scott Pelley. In the exclusive interview — set to air this Sunday — the young Eagan man opened up about his motivations, and what he still thinks about every day.
It’s very rare for someone in federal custody, much less a convicted terrorist, to do an on-camera interview. Warsame told Scott Pelley he became radicalized by watching YouTube videos of the infamous American-born cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki.
“He explained how Islam was, you know, like my calling,” Warsame told Pelley. “It was almost like he was talking to you. And, like, it made you feel like you were special, and like you’re the chosen one.”
“How much time did you spend watching these videos?” Pelley asked.
“I would just continuously watch them,” Warsame said. “When I wasn’t at school, doing my homework or out with my family, I was watching thos videos.”
Awlaki was killed by a CIA drone strike in Yemen in 2011, but his fiery anti-Western sermons are still easily found on YouTube. Pelley says the videos were especially alluring to the group of friends — all first generation Americans, torn between two cultures.
“They are looking for a purpose in life, a mission in life,” Pelley told WCCO. “And when you click on Awlaki’s videos that is exactly what he is telling you. He is talking to you, this can be your mission, you can be a great person — and I think that is very seductive.”
Warsame was also instrumental in helping two friends Yusuf Jama and Abdi Nur both from Minneapolis leave the country to join ISIS. Both are believed to have died fighting for the terrorist group.
“Are you responsible for their deaths?” Pelley asked Warsame in the interview.
“Yeah, I believe I am responsible for their deaths,” Warsame replied. “And I think about it every day.”
Pelley told me his “60 Minutes” story will also focus on the efforts by the U.S. Attorney’s office and other authorities to prevent this kind of recruitment here in Minnesota.
Warsame and the other defendants in the case will be sentenced next month. Warsame faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. The three who were found guilty face a maximum of life in prison.
Watch Esme’s Full Interview With Scott Pelley