22-year-olds Abdirahman Daud and Mohamed Farah, and 21-year-old Guled Omar have been found guilty of conspiring to support a foreign terrorist organization and conspiracy to commit murder abroad, federal charges that could potentially put them behind bars for life.
In addition to the above two charges, Farah was also found guilty, by a jury, of making false statements to federal authorities—but Daud was spared of a perjury charge.
A StarTribune report states that this Minneapolis case was the nation’s biggest federal Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)-related prosecution so far, being only the third to reach trial—with ten defendants charged in addition to the defendants’ connections to friends who had successfully lived in the United States and joined ISIS.
The report states that the three men were the only defendants to go to trial—a group of 10 were charged via an ongoing FBI investigation.
Six of the 10 pleaded guilty—two even testifying against former friends during court hearings. Twenty-two-year-old Abdi Nur was charged after reportedly making it to Syria back in May of 2014 to join ISIS, also known as ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), but he was caught after maintaining contact with co-conspirators back on U.S. soil throughout early 2015, the StarTribune reported.
At a news briefing, U.S. Attorney Andy Luger, whose team prosecuted the individuals, said:
“The evidence in this case made clear that the defendants made a deeply personal and deliberate decision back in 2014. They wanted to fight for a brutal terrorist organization, kill innocent people and destroy their own families in the process. This trial should serve as a wake-up call that it will take the entire community to stop terror recruiting in Minnesota.”
Omar planned to cross into Mexico and fly to Syria with a faked passport, but was caught after attempting to travel to California twice to buy the forged documents.
Farah and three others were were stopped by federal agents at New York’s John F. Kennedy airport back in November 2014. The group was attempting to board flights taking them overseas after traveling by Greyhound bus to the East Coast.
Farah, along with Daud, were arrested in April 2015, after driving to a California warehouse, near the Mexican border, to buy forged Canadian passports from an undercover FBI agent.
The report said that federal prosecutors reinforced the idea that the men had known they’d be asked to kill while under ISIS rule, and played recordings of each of the defendants discussing the potential for being sent back into the U.S. by ISIS or journeying back into the country with more ISIS extremists.
“In those tapes the three defendants convict themselves with the words that come out of their own mouths,” Assistant U.S. Attorney John Doherty told jurors, according to the StarTribune report.
The defense attorneys for the men often referred to them as “kids,” but Assistant U.S. Attorney Julie Allyn rejected the term, showing jurors photos that had surfaced of friends of the defendants, who had made it to Syria, clutching AK-47s. “They’re not children, these are grown men capable of making this decision. … They decided to join ISIL,” she said.
As the court let out, friends and family of the defendants seemed emotional, insisted their innocence and a representative for the families said the men will surely appeal.