Accused Al-Shabaab Associate Wants Trial, Lawyer Says

A man accused of supporting Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab doesn’t believe he committed any terrorist acts against Americans and wants to go to trial, his lawyer said.

Mohamed Yusuf, was charged in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, with conspiracy, use of high-powered firearms in violent acts and providing material support to a foreign terrorist group. Prosecutors told U.S. District Judge Sandra Townes today that they are in plea negotiations with Yusuf.

Ephraim Savitt, a lawyer for Yusuf, told reporters after the hearing that his client believed he was a freedom fighter and didn’t commit any acts of terrorism against Americans.

“He feels he never intended any harm to the United States or United States citizens,” Savitt said. “He looked up to the United States.”

Yusuf and two other men, Ali Yasin Ahmed and Madhi Hashi, were arrested in Africa and taken into U.S. custody in November, according to prosecutors. Prosecutors allege that the men participated in weapons and explosives training and a suicide bomber program and were deployed in combat to support al-Shabaab.

Chemical Weapons

Prosecutors allege the men had “substantial knowledge” regarding al-Shabaab research into chemical weapons, according to a letter filed in court Sept. 18. Al-Shabaab, an affiliate of al-Qaeda, claimed responsibility for an attack in September at the upscale Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, in which as many as 68 people died.

Ahmed and Hashi are also in plea negotiations, according to prosecutors. If convicted of all the charges, the defendants face a maximum sentence of life in prison, according to prosecutors.

The three men are originally from Somalia, according to Savitt. Yusuf, who previously worked as a bus driver, grew up in Sweden and is a Swedish citizen, Savitt said.

The case is US v. Ahmed, 1:12-cr-00661, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).

To contact the reporter on this story: Christie Smythe in federal court in Brooklyn, New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at

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