Eight people have been charged in connection with the disappearance of young Somali-Americans who allegedly left the U.S. to fight with a terrorist group in Somalia.
A federal judge in Minneapolis unsealed charging documents, which include indictments and criminal complaints, Monday afternoon. Prosecutors allege that the suspects provided financial support to those who traveled to the East African country to fight on behalf of al-Shabab, a group on the State Department's list of terrorist organizations. The charges also allege that the men attended al-Shabab terrorist training camps and fought on the group's behalf.
One of the eight named Monday is Mohamud Said Omar, who is being held in the Netherlands.
People close to the investigation said it appears that individuals loosely linked to al-Shabab radicalized, recruited and sent young men from the Somali community in the Twin Cities to Somalia to fight. Five of the Minnesotans have been killed.
Over the past couple of months, six people have been charged with everything from material support for a terrorist organization to financing and recruiting for al-Shabab.
The terrorist group is in the throes of a bloody civil war against the transitional government in Somalia. It has tangential ties to al-Qaida, and some officials believe it has aspirations to take its fight beyond Somalia.
The first group of young men is thought to have left Minneapolis in 2007. Other groups have left since then. The young men, who vanished without a trace, were all fairly good high school or college students being raised by single mothers. The last group left January 20.
Officials worry that this recruiting effort has been so successful that it amounts to America's first jihadi pipeline — a type of underground railway to the battlefield. One agent said that possibility makes this one of the biggest domestic terrorism investigations in this country since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
In addition, the push to recruit young men to Somalia has continued. Just last month, a young man named Abdow Abdow was arrested for lying to FBI agents about driving some Somali-Americans from Minneapolis across the country. One of his passengers had his passport and $4,000 in cash. Two others tried to leave the United States through Mexico two days later.
When Abdow was asked about his fellow travelers, he denied they were in the car, the FBI said. Abdow allegedly told the FBI, "I'm talking too much." When he finally admitted to having some passengers in his car, he added, "Whatever those guys are into, I'm not."
Law enforcement officials think that some of the young men in the car were trying to get to Somalia to fight with al-Shabab.
From NPR and wire reports