WASHINGTON - A Somali-American man, Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame, pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to the Islamic State (IS) militant group. Warsame was part of a group of five Minnesota men who met several times during 2014 and 2015 to plan a journey to Syria. He was arrested in Eagan, Minnesota, in December.
In Minneapolis, Warsame's mother, Deka Hussein, discussed the plea late Thursday with VOA Somali Service reporter Abdi Mahamud.
Q: [What] is your feeling after the guilty plea?
A: It was not a good feeling. It was a decision between my son and I to tell the truth about his actions.
Q: He pleaded guilty of supporting Islamic State. When you and he discussed this, how did it affect you?
A: It was a shock. Actually, he did not want this to happen to him. Neither did I. It was a shock for both of us.
Q: When was the first time you noticed that he was involved in terrorism activities?
A: In 2012, the government came to me. They showed me his pictures along with another young man. They told me, 'We have suspicions that your son along with other young men might be involved. So be mindful about that.'
Q: Apart from what they told you, did you see anything seem like [terrorism]?
A: No, I did not see. I was even called several times and had interviews with the authority. I monitored my children 24/7. What I mean is I was a mother who works 8 hours for them but I spend with them the rest of the time. On Saturdays and Sundays, I used to spend with them at the Dugsi (Quranic School) from morning to the afternoon. Staying with them all this time and taking care of their religious and regular school education, I thought my kids were the safest. I have not seen any symptoms.
Q: You were quoted by the media that you sent your son to Chicago. What was the reason?
A: In the years I mentioned to you, one of his Dugsi-mates traveled. I was subpoenaed to go to the court. I told the court that I [don't] have any suspicions about my children. When I came back home in the afternoon, I decided to buy them a ticket to Chicago to join their father. I told their father to take care of them. I transferred their school there. So they started going to school and working in Chicago. Their father and I divorced long time ago. However, we shared their upbringing. I am a mother who wants to keep her children. I never wanted to separate them but I decided that they spend the rest of their lives with their father.
Q: So you felt that it is safer there?
A: Since the authority came to me several times and said we are worried about your son. We see the situation in Minnesota like youth who traveled abroad, I thought Chicago was the solution.
Q: What would you describe with your son, his childhood and upbringing?
A: Abdirazak was a beautiful man. He was a peaceful man, goes to his school. On top of that, he used advice the youth in the community to stay away from drugs. If you visit the Youtube and type Abdirizak Warsame, you will see him working on youth program at Brain Coyle Center. He was a role model for other youth.
Q: Some people say that these youth was not given the chance to defend themselves. They are coerced to admit and plead guilty for crimes they did not commit. Do you believe that is the case?
A: People have different views. In my case, to be honest, I didn’t see anyone intimidating my son when he was in jail. We hired an attorney. He guided us. What made my son plead guilty is something that I saw him involved. But no, no one forced him to plea.
Q: A case like your son’s is 15 years of jail. Since your son plead guilty, how much are you hopeful that your son gets a lesser sentence?
A: Every crime has a maximum sentence. My son has one count, which is “material support”. That is 15 years but it depends on the judge. I am a Muslim who was shaken by a lot of unexpected things. I rely on God. If my son told the truth, I believe we will not disappointed.