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Three Minneapolis men have been convicted of conspiring to support the foreign terrorist organization Islamic State and to commit murder abroad under its command. A jury found Abdirahman Daud, Mohamed Farah, and Guled Omar guilty on multiple charges related to a plan to join ISIS in Syria and of making false statements to federal authorities.
The convictions were part of a far-ranging investigation into ISIS recruitment in Minnesota, and could be the first of many to follow.
As noted by the Minnesota Star-Tribune, the three defendants were from a group of 10 men charged in a 6-year FBI probe into the Islamic State's recruiting efforts. Six others plead guilty, two of whom testified against the men at trial. The charges were the culmination of an investigation that began "when nearly two dozen young Minnesotans left to join the Somali terrorist organization Al-Shabab."
Along with testimony at trial, prosecutors had recorded conversations with a friend of the men, Abdirahman Bashiir, who became a paid FBI informant. This led to both the defense and the men's supporters accusing the government of entrapment, but the jury concluded that the conspiracy to join ISIS had taken hold before Bashiir began recording conversations.
Exceptionally Persistent and Brutal
That conspiracy included several attempts to leave the country and join ISIS forces in Syria:
Prosecutors cast the conspiracy as a series of "exceptionally persistent efforts" beginning in spring 2014 to join an "exceptionally brutal" terrorist group. Omar was accused of twice trying to travel to California, then cross into Mexico and use a fake passport to fly to Syria. Prosecutors said he was also temporarily emir, or leader, of the group as it tried to leave in the spring of 2014.
Farah, meanwhile, was among four defendants who were stopped by federal agents at JFK International Airport in New York in November 2014 as they tried to board overseas flights. Daud and Farah were later arrested in April 2015 after driving with Bashiir to a California warehouse near the Mexican border to buy fake Canadian passports from an undercover FBI agent.
The arrests and convictions have cast a pall over the state of Minnesota, with many wondering why so many young men from the Land of 10,000 Lakes have been swayed by ISIS's recruiting message. Federal officials have said the Somali immigrant community in Minnesota has long been targeted by recruiters from ISIS and other Islamic terrorist groups, but local Somalis allege they have been unfairly targeted and investigated by the U.S. government.