Testimony in Minnesota trial opens window on Somalia terror group

Published 6:48 am Sunday, October 21, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS — One recruiter was a smooth talker who would introduce young Somali men to others planning to leave Minnesota to wage jihad back home. Another had an uncle in Somalia who would help the men once they arrived. A third would quote the Quran to deepen the recruits’ resolve.

Testimony in the trial of a Minneapolis man convicted of helping funnel young men from Minnesota to Somalia to join the terrorist group al-Shabab brought new details of the government’s years-long investigation into the recruiting pipeline to light, including how alleged leaders of the conspiracy in Minneapolis worked together to indoctrinate new members.

Many of these ringleaders are presumed to be in Somalia — and catching them and others is “at the top of the priority list,” said E.K. Wilson, the supervisory special agent overseeing the FBI’s investigation.

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Mahamud Said Omar, 46, was convicted Thursday of five terrorism-related counts that stemmed from a government investigation into what it said was the recruitment of more than 20 men who have left Minnesota since 2007 to join al-Shabab, a U.S.-designated terrorist group linked to al-Qaida that’s blamed for much of the violence in the East African country.

Omar’s attorneys say he plans to appeal. While Omar, a mosque janitor, was not portrayed as a leader of the scheme, authorities said he played a significant role in pushing men into a pipeline that they say — by sheer number of recruits alone — represents one of the largest efforts to pull U.S. fighters into a foreign terrorist group.