U.S. prosecutors announced terrorism charges against two Somali-American men Tuesday, after one traveled to Syria allegedly to join Islamic militants fighting there, and the other was stopped at the airport allegedly on his way there.
The charges against Abdi Mohamed Nur and Abdullahi Yusuf come as U.S. officials have stepped up efforts to stem the flow of Americans trying to join the militants who have waged a brutal campaign of terror across Syria and Iraq.
Nur was charged in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis with conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and providing material support, U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger said. Yusuf was charged with conspiring to provide material support to terrorists.
“Our region has lost dozens of disaffected young people to terrorist organizations that would sooner see Somali Minnesotans die on foreign battlefields than prosper in peace and security,” Luger said in a statement. “Unfortunately, Yusuf and Nur were not the first – and may not be the last – to conspire in support of [Islamic State].”
Nur left Minnesota on May 29 en route to Turkey, according to his sister Ifrah who told VOA's Somali Service that her brother had sent a text message from Istanbul that said he wanted “to join the jihad in Syria in search of Paradise and that they should not worry about him.”
His current whereabouts are unknown.
Prosecutors said Yusuf was stopped by FBI agents at the Minneapolis airport on May 28. According to the criminal complaint released Tuesday, agents had monitored Yusuf’s phone and text messages as he communicated with another former Minnesota resident now believed to be fighting in Syria.
Yusuf was scheduled to appear in court Tuesday. It was not immediately clear if he had a defense lawyer.
More than 100 Americans are believed to have traveled to Syria, officials said. That includes more than a dozen men and women from the Somali-American community in the Minneapolis area, the largest in the United States.
Minnesota’s Somali community had previously grappled with the issue of young people joining terrorist groups between 2007 and 2010, when about two dozen men traveled to Somalia to join the al-Shabab militant group.
At least two of them were involved in suicide missions in the country, while several of them were killed in the battlefield.
Harun Maruf of VOA's Somali Service contributed to this report.