Six Minnesota men were accused by the U.S. of plotting to provide support to Islamic State, a terror group that controls swaths of Syria and Iraq, in the latest of a series of arrests of Americans allegedly seeking to join the organization.
The arrests of four men in Minneapolis and two more in San Diego on Sunday follow government prosecutions and sting operations that have swept up defendants in New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia and Kansas.
“Preventing terrorism is the FBI’s highest priority,” Richard T. Thornton, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s special agent in charge of its Minneapolis division, said in a statement. “Disrupting individuals from traveling to join and fight for ISIL is an important part of our counter-terrorism strategy.”
ISIL is an acronym for Islamic State in Syria and the Levant, also known as ISIS. The men are charged with conspiracy and with attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization.
The six new arrestees were the subject of a 10-month federal government probe, during which three other men were charged with being co-conspirators, including one who flew to Turkey last year and hasn’t returned, according to the U.S.
Arrested in Minneapolis were Zacharia Yusef Abdurahman, Adnan Farah and Hanad Mustafe Musse, all of whom are 19, and Guled Ali Omar, 20. Abdirahman Yasin Daud and Mohamed Abdihamid Farah, both 21, were arrested in San Diego. Adnan and Mohamed Farah are identified as brothers in a court filing.
Attorney information for the six men wasn’t immediately made available. Four are scheduled to make an initial appearance before a U.S. magistrate in St. Paul, Minnesota, later Monday, said Ben Petok, a spokesman for the office of Minnesota U.S. Attorney Andrew M. Luger. The other two will appear before a U.S. magistrate in San Diego.
Earlier this month, Kansan John T. Booker was charged with plotting to bomb the U.S. Army base at Fort Riley, after proclaiming his support for Islamic State in a martyr video he recorded before trying to carry out an attack. The bomb was a dud as he’d been the target of an FBI sting operation.
Four people, including two women from New York City’s borough of Queens and one from Philadelphia, were charged with terrorism-related crimes on April 2 and 3. Two Illinois men, one a member of the state’s National Guard, were charged with conspiring to assist Islamic State last month.
Aided at times by a confidential source, the FBI’s Minnesota probe focused on men 18 to 24 years of age, according to an affidavit filed in court with the criminal complaint by Special Agent Nicholas Marshall.
“This group of individuals included young men who are friends; who have plotted together to travel to Syria to fight; and who assist each other with planning and funding their efforts,” Marshall said. “During this investigation, the government has prevented a number of these individuals from traveling to Syria.”
One who did travel, identified in court papers as Abdi Nur, has remained in contact with like-minded people in Minnesota, the agent said.
“From his locale in Syria, Nur recruits individuals and provides assistance to those who want to leave Minnesota to fight abroad,” Marshall said.
FBI surveillance tracked Nur and some of the conspirators through such everyday events as driving in a blue Volkswagen Jetta identified by its broken driver’s side mirror, fueling it, and shopping at a Macy’s department store, according to the agent.
Nur left for Syria, via Istanbul, in May 2014, Marshall said. His itinerary had included an unused return flight to the U.S.
The case is U.S. v. Farah, U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota (St. Paul).