Hargeisa, 14 July 2009 – Federal officials unsealed an indictment in Minneapolis on Monday charging two young Somali-Americans with providing material support for terrorism.
The disclosure of the indictment, which was handed up by a grand jury in February, is the first public step in a sweeping federal investigation of more than 20 young Americans who are believed to have joined a militant Islamist group in Somalia, the Shabaab, that is affiliated with Al Qaeda.
The indictment states that one of the men, Salah Osman Ahmed, flew from Minneapolis to Somalia in December 2007 to “fight jihad.” Mr. Ahmed, 26, and Abdifatah Yusuf Isse, 25, have been charged with plotting to provide “personnel including themselves” in a conspiracy to “kill, kidnap, maim or injure” people in a foreign country.
The case drew national attention after one of the other men, Shirwa Ahmed, blew himself up in an attack in Somalia last October, becoming the first known American suicide bomber.
The indictments followed news that two other Somali-American men suspected of fighting with the Shabaab were shot dead Friday in a battle in the Somali capital. Relatives and friends reported the deaths of the men, Zakaria Maruf, 30, and Jamal Sheikh Bana, 20, both of Minneapolis.
Salah Osman Ahmed, one of the men charged Monday, used to write rap lyrics before he became religious in recent years, a friend said. After Mr. Ahmed arrived in Somalia, he became disillusioned with the militant movement there, said the friend, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“It wasn’t for him,” the friend said. “He felt like he didn’t fit in.”
Both Mr. Ahmed and Mr. Isse later returned to the United States. Mr. Isse was detained last spring in Seattle, said Stephen L. Smith, a lawyer who advised Mr. Isse’s former girlfriend. Mr. Ahmed, who was working as a security guard in Minneapolis, was arrested there on Saturday.
The men are being held at an undisclosed location pending a detention hearing on Thursday.