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Key Witness Cross Examined in Minnesota Islamic State Case

  • Abdulaziz Osman

Undated file photo provided the Sherburne County, Minn., Sheriff’s Office shows Abdirahman Yasin Daud, one of several Minnesota men accused of conspiring to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State group.

Undated file photo provided the Sherburne County, Minn., Sheriff’s Office shows Abdirahman Yasin Daud, one of several Minnesota men accused of conspiring to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State group.

The U.S. trial of three Somali Americans accused of conspiring to provide material support to the Islamic State group entered a second week Monday, with a key witness being cross-examined.

Abdullahi Yusuf, 20, who is cooperating with prosecutors, has been testifying against the three defendants in a Minneapolis courtroom. Defense lawyers on Monday grilled Yusuf, who at times appeared flustered. When asked about inconsistences in his story, Yusuf said he lied to U.S. agents during his initial interviews, but later told the truth.

Yusuf is a former friend of the defendants, who he says introduced him to radical Islam. Yusuf was arrested before boarding a plane that would take him to Syria and has pleaded guilty to providing material support -- essentially himself as a fighter -- to Islamic State.

The three defendants, Mohamed Farah, 22, Guled Omar, 21 and Abdirahman Daud 22, are accused of meeting numerous times from March 2014 to April 2015 to look for the best way to travel to Syria to join the terror group, but they all were stopped by law enforcement before they could board planes. The three have pleaded not guilty to the charges and could face the possibility of 15 years to life in prison for conspiring to commit murder outside the United States.

Fadumo Hussein, the mother of Guled Omar, spoke to VOA Somali in reaction to the trial of her son. “I am feeling very tensed; it’s like someone who is standing on a broken glass or someone who has been bitten by an angry snake."

She accused the FBI of dividing the young men and turning them on each other. "They are using the young men to falsely testify on each other. The witness, Abdullahi Yusuf, was reading a false and fabricated statements given to him by FBI."

Sadiq Warfa, a Somali American activist, stressed to VOA Somali that the defendants are only a few individuals, and said the Somali American community is not on trial.

“This is one of biggest terror trials going on in the country. We have to be careful, we have to wait. Let the process work itself. We have a jury system; the defense will make its case. I want to make very clear, the Somali American community is not on trial. These are a few individual young men and our legal system here is 'you are innocent til proven guilty.'"
The trail is expected to last about two more weeks.

Minneapolis, Minnesota's largest city, has a large Somali community, and U.S. authorities say the city is ripe for extremists looking for would-be terrorists. Since 2007, a dozen Somali Americans have left the state to join terrorist groups in Somalia, and in recent years in Syria.

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