U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced charges on Thursday against 14 suspects accused of supporting the terrorist group al-Shabab in Somalia. Holder said the indictments reflect a "disturbing trend" of terrorist organizations recruiting in the United States.
Attorney General Holder announced four indictments charging suspects in Minnesota, California and Alabama with seeking to provide money, personnel and services to al-Shabab, which has links to al-Qaida.
Two suspects have been arrested, the rest are still at large with several believed to be in Somalia fighting for al-Shabab. The group, designated by the United States as a terrorist organization, has been battling the transitional Somali government for control of Mogadishu. It has also been blamed for recent suicide bombings in Uganda.
Holder said the ongoing probe by the Federal Bureau of Investigation of al-Shabab's U.S. operations should prevent others from joining its ranks. "These arrests and charges should serve as an unmistakable warning to others who are considering joining or supporting terrorist groups like al-Shabab. If you choose this route, you can expect to find yourself in a United States jail cell or to be a casualty on a Somali battlefield," he said.
Most of those charged in the indictments are naturalized U.S. citizens who were recruited by the group.
A large number of Somalis immigrated to the United States after the fall of the last stable Somali government in 1991. Many of them settled in Minnesota. Ten men from the northern state were charged in the indictments with leaving the United States to join al-Shabab fighters.
Two women from Minnesota were arrested and charged with going door-to-door in Somali neighborhoods, telling people they were collecting funds for charity, while they were raising money for al-Shabab.
The U.S. attorney general said investigations show an increasing number of people, including U.S. citizens, are following extremist ideologies and seeking to carry out terrorist objectives in the United States and abroad. "This is a very disturbing trend that we have been intensely investigating in recent years, and will continue to investigate and will root out. But we must also work to prevent this type of radicalization from ever taking hold," he said.
Holder praised the Muslim-American community for its efforts to stop militants from recruiting young Muslims.
The indictments follow the arrest on Wednesday of a 26-year-old Chicago man charged with attempting to provide material support to al-Shabab and planning to join the group to commit a suicide attack.
Shaker Masri, a U.S. citizen, was arrested hours before he was due to leave for Somalia.