Three men charged with supporting the Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab had ties to two suicide bombers from Minnesota, the U.S. said.
The three defendants were “closely associated” with Farah Mohamed Beledi, a suicide bomber from Minnesota who participated in a 2011 Somalia attack, prosecutors said in a letter filed today in federal court in Brooklyn, New York.
Another bomber from Minnesota, Shirwa Ahmed, took part in a series of simultaneous 2008 attacks discussed by two of the defendants in detail during intercepted communications, prosecutors said in the filing. Beledi and Shirwa Ahmed were U.S. citizens, according to the document, dated April 5.
The letter, providing supplementary evidentiary material to the defense, was filed in the case of Ali Yasin Ahmed, Madhi Hashi and Mohamed Yusuf. The three were arrested in Africa by local authorities in August and taken into U.S. custody in November, according to prosecutors. They were indicted on charges of conspiracy, use of high-powered firearms and providing material support to a foreign terrorist group.
Prosecutors allege that from December 2008 until their arrest, 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 has said it is affiliated with al-Qaeda.
Shirwa Ahmed participated in one of five simultaneous suicide bombings in Somalia targeting the Somali and Ethiopian government and the United Nations, prosecutors said. Beledi helped carried out a suicide attack on a government checkpoint in Somalia in 2011, prosecutors said.
In a follow-up letter dated today, prosecutors said they intend to introduce expert testimony showing that the 2008 bombings were “executed in a manner consistent with al-Shabaab’s known tactics and political ideologies.”
While news network Al Jazeera initially reported that al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the 2008 attacks, the group later indicated it had not made such a statement, according to the follow-up letter.
The three defendants were originally from Somalia, an attorney for Yusuf, Ephraim Savitt, has said. Yusuf, formerly a bus driver, grew up in Sweden and is a Swedish citizen, according to Savitt.
Savitt didn’t immediately respond to calls for comment today. A lawyer for Ali Yasin Ahmed, Susan Kellman, declined to immediately comment. Harry Batchelder Jr., a lawyer for Hashi, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.
If convicted of all the charges, the defendants face a maximum sentence of life in prison, according to prosecutors.
The case is U.S. v. Ahmed, 1:12-cr-00661, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).