updated 8/5/2010 6:08:26 PM ET 2010-08-05T22:08:26

The government announced Thursday that it has charged 14 people as participants in "a deadly pipeline" to Somalia that routed money and fighters from the United States to the terrorist group al-Shabab.

The indictments unsealed in Minneapolis, San Diego and Mobile, Ala., reflect "a disturbing trend" of recruitment efforts targeting U.S. residents to become terrorists, Attorney General Eric Holder told a news conference. In one case, two women pleaded for money "to support violent jihad in Somalia," according to an indictment.

The attorney general credited Muslim community leaders in the United States for regularly denouncing terrorists and for providing critical assistance to law enforcement to help disrupt terrorist plots and combat radicalization. "We must ... work to prevent this type of radicalization from ever taking hold," Holder said.

At least seven of the 14 people charged are U.S. citizens and 10, all from Minnesota, allegedly left the United States to join al-Shabab. Seven of the 10 had been charged previously in the probe.

Al-Shabab is a Somali insurgent faction embracing a radical form of Islam similar to the harsh, conservative brand practiced by Afghanistan's Taliban regime. Its fighters, numbering several thousand strong, are battling Somalia's weakened government and have been branded a terrorist group with ties to al-Qaida by the U.S. and other Western countries.

Terrorist organizations such as al-Shabab continue to radicalize and recruit U.S. citizens and others to train and fight with them, said Sean Joyce, the FBI's executive assistant director for the national security branch.

One of two indictments issued in Minnesota alleges that two Somali women who were among those charged, and others, went door-to-door in Minneapolis; Rochester, Minn., and elsewhere in the U.S. and Canada to raise funds for al-Shabab's operations in Somalia. The indictment says the women raised the money under false pretenses, claiming it would go to the poor and needy, and used phony names for recipients to conceal that the money was going to al-Shabab.

One of the Minnesota indictments alleges that the two women, Amina Farah Ali and Hawo Mohamed Hassan, raised money by making direct appeals to people in teleconferences "in which they and other speakers encouraged financial contributions to support violent jihad in Somalia."

During one teleconference, the indictment says, Ali told others "to forget about the other charities" and focus on "the Jihad."

The indictment says Ali and others sent the funds to al-Shabab through various hawalas, money transfer businesses that are a common source of financial transactions in the Islamic world.

Ali is accused of sending $8,608 to al-Shabab on 12 occasions between Sept. 17, 2008 through July 5, 2009.

The fundraising operation in Minnesota reached into Ohio, where a Columbus resident helped collect donations for al-Shabab, according to one of the indictments unsealed in Minneapolis.

During appearances by Ali and Hassan before a federal judge in St. Paul, Minn., prosecutors didn't seek detention for either woman. A judge set several conditions, including barring travel outside Minnesota.

Ali's attorney said she denied the allegations. Asked whether she understood the allegations, Ali said: "I do not know, however I think maybe because of my faith."

At one point, speaking through a translator, Ali said: "Allah is my attorney."

Ali said she worked in home health care and had lived in Rochester for 11 years. Hassan said she was self-employed, running a day care.

After the FBI searched Ali's home in 2009, she allegedly contacted an al-Shabab leader in southern Somalia and said: "I was questioned by the enemy here. ... they took all my stuff and are investigating it ... do not accept calls from anyone."

Abdifatah Abdinur, a Somali community leader in Rochester, Minn., said Ali was known in the community as the go-to person if local Somalis had clothes or other goods to donate.

"If you have clothes, you give them to her," said Abdinur. "If you have shoes, give them to her." Abdinur said Ali was also a religious speaker who preached to women in the area. "I was surprised, as almost everybody was (to learn) that she was sending clothes to al-Shabab," Abdinur said.

Roughly 20 men from the U.S. — all but one of Somali descent — left Minnesota from December 2007 through October 2009 to join al-Shabab, officials have said.

On Thursday, a newly released State Department annual report on worldwide terrorism noted with concern that al-Qaida, particularly in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, appeared to be attracting growing numbers of radicalized Americans to its cause.

Omar Hammami, who is now known as Abu Mansour al-Amriki, was charged in Birmingham, Ala. Hammami grew up in the middle-class town of Daphne, Ala., and attended the University of South Alabama in Mobile, where he was president of the Muslim Student Association nine years ago. Hammami, 26, enrolled at the university in 2001 but left in 2002; school officials said they have been unaware of his whereabouts since then.

Hammami's father Shafik is an engineer with the state highway department who also has served as president of the Islamic Society of Mobile. Shafik Hammami confirmed his relationship to Omar Hammami in e-mail exchanges with The Associated Press earlier this year but declined further comment.

Al-Shabab members began pledging allegiance to al-Qaida last year. One of its most famous members is al-Amriki, or "the American." He appeared in a jihadist video in May 2009.

In San Diego, Calif., prosecutors unsealed an indictment charging Jehad Serwan Mostafa, 28, with conspiring to provide material support to al-Shabab. Mostafa is believed to be in Somalia.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Holder: Americans charged in terror investigation

  1. Closed captioning of: Holder: Americans charged in terror investigation

    >>> side of the story coming up.

    >>> but in the meantime, breaking news. here's eric holder .

    >> -- individuals with terrorism connections. a terrorist group operating in somalia with ties to al qaeda . two of these individuals have been arrested. these indictments and arrests in minnesota , alabama , and california shed further light on a deadly pipeline that has rooted funding and fighters to al shabaab from across the united states . an indictment was unsealed in minnesota , charging ten men with terrorism offenses for leaving the united states to join al shabaab as foreign fighters. seven of these defendants had previously been charged by either indictment or by criminal complaint. the remaining three defendants had not been charged before. in the district of minnesota alone, a total of 19 defendants have now been charged in connection with this investigation. nine of these defendants have been arrested in the united states or overseas, five of whom have already pleaded guilty. ten of the charged defendants are not in custody and are believed to be overseas. additionally, two united states citizens and former residents of alabama and california , omar th hammami have been charged in separate cases with providing material support to al shabaab . both are believed to be in somalia and fighting on behalf of al shabaab . according to public reports, hammami are appeared in several propaganda videos on behalf of shabab that have been distributed worldwide and is believed to be a ranking member of the al shabaab organization and has operational responsibilities. finally, farina ali and mohammad hasan both naturalized united states citizens and residents of minnesota were arrested by fbi agents earlier today. they have been charged with providing material support to terrorists among other offenses. the indictment alleges that these two women raised money to support al shabaab through door to door solicitations and teleconferences in somalia communities in minneapolis , rochester, and other locations in the united states , as well as in canada. in some cases, these funds were raised under the false pretense that they would be used to aid the needy and the poor. now, while our investigations are ongoing around the country, these arrests and charges should serve as an unmistakable warning to others who are considering joining or supporting terrorist groups like al shabaab . 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 battle field. as demonstrated by the charges unsealed today, we are seeing an increasing number of individuals, including u.s. citizens who have become captivated by extremist ideology and have taken steps to carry out terrorist objectives, either at home or 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 time of radicalization from ever taking hold. members of the american muslim community have been and continue to be strong partners in fighting this emerging threat. they have regularly denounced terrorist acts and those who carry them out. and they have provided criminal assistance to law enforcement in helping to disrupt terrorist plots and combat radicalization. now, these individuals have consistently and correctly expressed deep concern about the recruitment of their youth by terrorist groups . many members of the community have taken proactive steps to stop the recruitment of their youth by terrorist groups . just recently, a group of prominent american muslims joined together in a video to repudiate the tactics employed by radicalized militants to recruit young muslims via the internet. there needs to be more recognition of these efforts and of the losses suffered by the muslim community here and around the world. many of the victims of terror attacks by al shabaab , al qaeda , the taliban, and other terrorist groups have innocent muslims . they are innocent muslims . i want to applaud the tremendous work of the fbi's joint terrorism task forces in minneapolis , san diego , and mobile, alabama , for their work on these cases. i also want to thank the duch klpd, the dutch ministry of justice , the justice department 's own office of international affairs , the state department including the u.s. embassies in the united arab emirates and yemen, the hague in the netherlands, and the department of defense for their assistance in the minneapolis cases, in particular. now, these indictments and arrests would not have been possible without the critical contributions from the national security division , led by assistant attorney general david chris and the u.s. attorney 's offices in minnesota , the southern district of alabama , and the southern district of california . all of whom are here with me on the stage today and represented by todd jones from minnesota , lauren duffy from san diego , and kenyan brown from alabama . i


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments