Two men are accused of supporting terrorism in a grand jury indictment unsealed Monday, the first charges in an investigation into the disappearances of several young Somali men who activists believe were recruited from the Minneapolis area by radical elements in Somalia.
At least one of the men, Salah Osman Ahmed, traveled to Somalia to fight with Islamic militants, according to the indictment returned Feb. 19 but not unsealed until Monday. Ahmed and Abdifatah Yusuf Isse both are charged with providing material support to terrorists and conspiracy to kill, kidnap, maim and injure. Ahmed also is charged with lying to investigators.
Isse's attorney didn't immediately return a call for comment. The court docket didn't list an attorney for Ahmed, and the federal public defender's office declined to comment.
FBI spokesman E.K. Wilson declined to comment because of the ongoing investigation, which he said was taking significant time and resources.
Both men were in federal custody, according to Omar Jamal, executive director of the Somali Justice Advocacy Center, who said he had spoken with the men's families. Isse's age was not immediately available, but Jamal said he was younger than Ahmed, who is 26. He did not know if the men knew each other.
Jamal said both of the men went to Somalia but were able to "escape" and return to Minneapolis. Isse then moved to Seattle, Jamal said, but authorities brought him back to Minneapolis in February and he has been in custody ever since. Family members believe he is cooperating, Jamal said.
It was not immediately clear when Ahmed was arrested.
Committed suicide bombing?
In Minneapolis, home to the nation's largest concentration of Somali immigrants, as many as 20 young men are believed to have gone in the last 18 months to take part in the fighting in Somalia. Family members say at least three young men from Minneapolis have died in Somalia.
Shirwa Ahmed committed a suicide bombing in October, officials said. The family of Burhan Hassan, 18, learned last month that he was killed. Family members of another missing man, Jamal Bana, 20, said during the weekend that they found an online picture showing their son's body in Somalia.
Jamal said the two indicted men may actually be the lucky ones and family members are working to bring home others who still are alive.
The first two broad counts in the indictment cover alleged activity from September 2007 through December 2008.
Ahmed and Isse are accused of providing "material support, namely personnel including themselves" as part of a conspiracy to kill, kidnap, maim or injure "persons in a foreign country."
Ahmed is accused of taking a Northwest Airlines flight from Minneapolis to Amsterdam on Dec. 6, 2007, bound for Somalia, then lying about it when questioned by investigators in July and December 2008.
"He stated that he did not know anyone on his flight to Somalia in December 2007 when, in fact, he traveled to Somalia together with an individual he knew, so that they could fight jihad in Somalia," the indictment alleges.
Jamal said family members believe Isse and Salah Ahmed were "foot soldiers" and not involved in any planning or recruiting.