Three men were indicted on charges they supported the Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab, according to a filing unsealed today in Brooklyn, New York, federal court.
The defendants, Ali Yasin Ahmed, 27, Madhi Hashi, 23, and Mohamed Yusuf, 29, were arrested in Africa by local authorities in August and taken into U.S. custody in November, according to prosecutors. The men are charged with conspiracy, use of high-powered firearms, and providing material support to a foreign terrorist group, according to the indictment.
Prosecutors allege that from December 2008 to August, the men participated in weapons and explosives training and a suicide-bomber program with associates of al-Shabaab and were deployed in combat operations to support the group, which is affiliated with al-Qaeda.
“We will use every tool at our disposal to combat terrorist groups, deter terrorist activity and incapacitate individual terrorists,” Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Loretta E. Lynch said today in a statement.
The three men were originally from Somalia, an attorney for Yusuf, Ephraim Savitt, said today in a phone interview. Yusuf, who most recently worked as a bus driver, grew up in Sweden and is a Swedish citizen, Savitt said.
All of the conduct alleged in the government’s case took place in Somalia and didn’t involve U.S. citizens or U.S. institutions, he said. Yusuf is planning to fight the charges and whether the case can be brought in a U.S. court, the lawyer said.
“A lot of initial litigation is going to center over jurisdictional issues,” according to Savitt.
Lawyers for Ahmed and Hashi didn’t immediately return calls seeking comment.
If convicted of all the charges, the defendants face a maximum sentence of life in prison, according to prosecutors.
The case is US v. Ahmed, 1:12-cr-00661, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).