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Minnesota men arrested in terror probe were headed to Syria, officials say

FBI arrests six Somali American men after a probe into U.S. recruits trying to join Islamic State terrorists

Several Somali American men were charged by federal officials on Monday after a 10-month investigation into their alleged efforts to join Islamic State terrorists overseas.

The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force arrested six men in Minneapolis and San Diego who officials said tried to provide support to leaders of Islamic State terror cells.

Zacharia Yusuf Abdurahman, 19; Adnan Farah, 19; Hanad Mustafe Musse, 19; and Guled Ali Omar, 20, were arrested in Minneapolis. Abdirahman Yasin Daud, 21, and Mohamed Abdihamid Farah, 21, were arrested in San Diego after driving from Minneapolis.

Daud and Farah were planning to pick up passports and then cross into Mexico, where they would board a flight to the Middle East, federal authorities said Monday.

All six were charged with conspiracy to aid and support a terrorist organization, specifically the Islamic State. Each of the men is scheduled to appear in court Monday.

"These men were intent on joining terrorists," said U.S. Atty. Andrew M. Luger of the District of Minnesota. "On several occasions they attempted to travel to Syria to join terrorist fighters."

In various instances over a 10-month span, the men tried to arrange overseas flights from Minneapolis and John F. Kennedy airport in New York, where they then planned to eventually make their way into Syria, according to the complaint filed by Luger’s office.

Included in the federal affidavit are quotes from conversations recorded by a confidential FBI informant wearing a wire.

In one conversation mentioned in the affidavit, during a discussion of going to San Diego to secure phony passports to travel to Mexico and then to Syria, Farah warned when speaking to an unidentified counterpart: “We gotta be smart, brother, we can’t make dumb decisions like we always do. Rational decisions.”

In another conversation included in the affidavit, Farah in San Diego said: “The American identity is dead. Even if I get caught … I’m through with America. Burn my I.D.”

Several Americans in recent months have been arrested by federal officials on suspicion of attempting to aid Islamic State or other terrorist organizations, such as Al-Shabab.

In 2013, four Somali nationals in San Diego, including an imam at a local mosque, were sentenced to prison after being convicted of attempting to aid the Al-Shabab terror group in Somalia. The four raised $8,500, according to court documents. They were sentenced to terms ranging from six to 18 years. 

Over the past two years more than 20 Americans from the Minneapolis area have traveled overseas to fight alongside terrorists under the Islamic State banner, according to the FBI. Minneapolis is home to a large Somali American population.

“It’s clear we have a problem,” said Luger of the large number of Minnesota residents who have traveled abroad. “This problem is not a Somali problem. It’s not an immigrant problem. ... It’s a Minnesota problem.”

In February, Hamza Naj Ahmed, 19, a U.S. citizen who lives in Minneapolis, was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of trying to aid Islamic State terrorists and giving false information in a terrorism investigation.

And earlier this month a Texas-born man was charged with conspiring to aid militant groups fighting U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Muhanad Mahmoud al Farekh faces 15 years in prison if convicted of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists.

Times staff writer Lauren Raab contributed to this report.

Follow @kurtisalee and email kurtis.lee@latimes.com

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATES

11:16 a.m. This post was updated with additional information from the affidavit. 

9:27 a.m. This post was updated with additional information. 

This post was originally published at 7:30 a.m. 

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