[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] on Thursday announced that 14 individuals have been charged [press release] with providing money, personnel and services to the Somalia-based Islamic terrorism organization al-Shabaab [CFR backgrounder]. Prosecutors in the Southern District of Alabama, the Southern District of California and the District of Minnesota [official websites] unsealed four separate indictments accusing the 14 individuals of terrorism violations. Also Thursday, two of the defendants, Amina Farah Ali and Hawo Mohamed Hassan—both naturalized US citizens—were arrested. Announcing the arrests and charges, Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile] stated [text]:
[T]hese arrests and charges should serve as an unmistakable warning to others considering joining or supporting terrorist groups like al-Shabaab: if you choose this route you can expect to find yourself in a U.S. jail cell or a casualty on the battlefield in Somalia. As demonstrated by the charges unsealed today, we are seeing an increasing number of individuals – including U.S. citizens – who have become captivated by extremist ideology and have taken steps to carry out terrorist objectives, either at home or abroad. It’s a disturbing trend that we have been intensely investigating in recent years and will continue to investigate and root out. But we must also work to prevent this type of radicalization from ever taking hold.
The unsealed September 2009 three-count indictment [text, PDF] charges US citizen Omar Hammami with providing “material support and resources … services and personnel, including himself” to the foreign terror association al-Shabaab in violation of 18 USC §§ 2332a(b), 2339A, and 2339B [texts]. US citizen Jehad Mostafa was separately charged for providing material support to al-Shabaab in the unsealed October 2009 indictment [text, PDF]. Currently, Hammami and Mostafa, who both could potentially face 15 years in prison for each count, are not in custody and are believed to be in Somalia. Ali and Hassan were charged in an unsealed July 2010 indictment [text, PDF] with conspiracy to provide material support to al-Shabaab between September 17, 2008 and July 19, 2010. Communicating with people in Somalia, Ali and Hassan allegedly solicited funds under false pretenses to support al-Shabaab. Prosecutors in the District of Minnesota also unsealed a July 2010 third superseding indictment [text, PDF] that charges 10 individuals, including three US citizens, with conspiracy to provide material and financial support to al-Shabaab and conspiracy to kill and injure individuals abroad. The 10 defendants, of which seven have previously charged by an indictment or criminal complaint, are not in custody and are believed to be overseas. To date, in connection with the al-Shabaab investigation, 19 defendants have been charged in Minnesota, with nine arrests and five guilty pleas.
Thursday’s indictments highlight a growing concern of US citizens’ involvement with extremist groups and homegrown terrorists. In June, a Pakistani anti-terrorism court sentenced five Americans [JURIST report] from the DC-area to 10 years in prison for plotting attacks on Pakistan. That same week, Pakistani-born US citizen Faisal Shahzad [BBC profile] pleaded guilty to 10 counts of terrorism and weapons charges [JURIST reports] relating to May’s attempted car bombing in New York City’s Times Square. In April, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] criticized [JURIST report] the violent and repressive conditions in southern Somalia that have been implemented by al-Shabaab.