A federal grand jury formally indicted a 26-year-old medical technician from St. Paul, Minn., on Wednesday for allegedly lying to federal authorities.
Abdow Abdow was arrested Oct. 9, but the arrest was under seal and not made public until Tuesday, when he appeared in a St. Paul federal court. An FBI spokesman said Abdow's arrest was related to the ongoing investigation into the two dozen Somali youths who have left the United States and traveled to Somalia to join a militia there called al-Shabab. Al-Shabab is in the middle of a civil war against the transitional government in Somalia and is on the State Department's list of terrorist organizations. Its leadership is thought to have links to al-Qaida.
The criminal complaint against Abdow says he lied about driving a handful of Somali-Americans from Minneapolis across the country Oct. 6. One of the young men in the car had his passport and $4,000 in cash. Two other young men who were passengers in Abdow's car 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 says. When interviewed at work, Abdow allegedly told the FBI, "I'm talking too much." Then, when he finally admitted to having a handful of passengers in his car, he added, "Whatever those guys are into, I'm not."
The FBI also says Abdow denied renting the car for the drive himself, but agents say they can prove he used his debit card.
While the false statements might seem trivial, officials worry that Adbow was lying to protect a handful of young men helping al-Shabab in its recruitment of Americans. The FBI declined to say whether the men in the car were among those under investigation or whether they possibly intended to travel to Somalia.
U.S. intelligence officials have been following the case out of concern that the Somalis leaving Minneapolis are being funneled to al-Shabab through what might be America's first jihadi pipeline. Officials worry the pipeline could lead to a raft of young men training for jihad and slipping back into the U.S. to launch an attack.
For almost two years, it appears al-Shabab has been recruiting young Somali men from U.S. cities like Minneapolis, Cleveland, Boston and San Diego. The recruits have been flown to Somalia and then put on the front lines of Somalia's civil war. One of those recruits, a young Minneapolis man named Shirwa Ahmed, blew himself up in a suicide bombing last October. Four other young Minnesotans who signed up with al-Shabab are also believed dead.
One agent said this has been one of the biggest domestic terrorism investigations in this country since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. More arrests are expected.
Abdow has posted a $25,000 bond and will be staying in a halfway house as his case develops.