A third man with Minnesota ties pleaded guilty today in connection with a massive counterterrorism investigation into the disappearances of 20 Somali-American men.
Authorities think the men may have traveled to their native Somalia to fight or train with terrorists.
In federal court in Minneapolis today, one of the alleged travelers, Kamal Said Hassan, pleaded guilty of lying to the FBI.
Hassan admitted he told an FBI agent in February that he left the al-Shabaab training camp and went straight to Yemen without committing any further acts on behalf of al-Shabaab. That statement, he said in court today, was false.
In fact, Hassan "continued to work with members of al-Shabaab and follow the orders of al-Shabaab in Somalia," according to a plea agreement filed in court.
In the hearing, Hassan admitted to engaging in combat. He also admitted to concealing the identities of people he associated with, both in Minnesota and Somalia.
He also pleaded guilty earlier this year to terrorism-related charges.
Hassan attended Minneapolis Community and Technical College in 2006, according to an MCTC spokesperson. He majored in business management and human services, but did not graduate.
His Facebook profile page lists him as married, Muslim, and a fan of the 1990s TV series "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." Wall posts from friends provide few clues about the young man who, by his own admission, followed orders from al-Shabaab in Somalia.
He joined groups ranging from "Got My Vans on," referring to the iconic canvas skateboard shoes, to "THE SUFFERING SOMALIS IN MOGADISHO," a page dedicated to the mistreatment of Somalis under the occupation of Ethiopian soldiers beginning in 2006.
According to court documents and friends of the missing Somali-American men, some of the would-be fighters were angered in part by the Ethiopian invasion, which they considered unjust. The young men thought they would be seen as freedom fighters defending a distant homeland.
Hassan, who wore a dark suit in court on Wednesday, was allowed to meet briefly in private with three family members before the hearing started. Afterward, he was taken into custody by U.S. marshals.
He faces up to eight years in prison in a plea agreement worked out with the U.S. attorney's office. A sentencing date wasn't immediately set.
Court documents unsealed later Wednesday showed that Hassan had pleaded guilty in February to two other charges: providing material support for terrorism and providing material support for a foreign terrorist organization. Court documents said Hassan faces up to 15 years in prison on each of those charges.
Hassan's attorney, federal public defender Manny Atwal, declined to comment as she left the courtroom.
Two other men have also pleaded guilty to terrorism charges.
Last month, Salah Osman Ahmed of New Brighton pleaded guilty to providing material support to terrorists. As part of his plea agreement, three other charges were dropped.
Court records made public in July revealed that another man with Twin Cities ties, Abdifatah Isse, pleaded guilty to the same charge and was cooperating with authorities.
According to court documents and testimony, Ahmed and Isse said they left for Somalia to fight the Ethiopian invasion. They walked away from al-Shabaab soon after arriving at the camp in December 2007 and eventually made it back to the United States, according to court documents.
Somalia has not had a functioning government since 1991, when warlords overthrew a socialist dictator then turned on each other, causing chaos in the African nation of 7 million.
Islamic insurgents with alleged ties to al-Qaida recently intensified their efforts to capture the capital city, Mogadishu.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report)
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