The Nevada Highway Patrol today released the name of a third passenger involved in a cross-country road trip that has gotten the attention of federal agents investigating whether Minnesota men traveled to Somalia to fight in that country's ongoing conflict.
A highway patrol spokesman told MPR News that Adam Bonaya Ali, 22, was one of five men in a vehicle pulled over by a Nevada state trooper the night of Oct. 6. The driver of the car, Cabdulaahi Faarax, was on the terrorism watch list but was released after the trooper consulted an FBI field office, said Trooper Alan Davidson of the Nevada Highway Patrol.
Faarax told friends in Minneapolis he believed he was on the federal no-fly list, a subset of the terrorism watch list. The trooper who ran his name through a national criminal database found that suspicion to be true.
Faarax was driving a gray Chevrolet wagon on Interstate 15, about 10 miles north of Las Vegas, when the trooper pulled him over on an alleged speeding violation.
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Two days later, two of the men in the car were seen at the U.S.-Mexico border near San Diego, according to a court document filed last week. It's not clear if Faarax was one of those individuals.
The man who allegedly rented the car, Abdow Munye Abdow, 26, of Chanhassen, has been indicted by a grand jury on two counts of providing false statements to federal agents. He has been released to a halfway house and will plead not guilty at his arraignment Wednesday, said Abdow's attorney, Fred Goetz.
The FBI has declined to say whether the other men in the vehicle were eventually taken into custody.
The agency has confirmed that Abdow's case is related to the ongoing investigation of about 20 Minnesota men of Somali descent who allegedly left to fight in the escalating violence of their homeland over the past couple of years.
Some Somali-Americans who have been closely following the case fear that at least some of the travelers in the car were trying to go back to Somalia by way of Mexico, suggesting that the pipeline of would-be fighters from Minnesota may be still active.
In last week's criminal complaint, federal authorities said Abdow was driving the car when it was pulled over in Nevada. But a spokesman for the Nevada Highway Patrol said Abdow was in the passenger's seat, while Faarax was driving. The FBI confirmed today that they now believe Abdow was a passenger.
When interviewed by a Nevada state trooper, the men in the car gave conflicting accounts about where they were headed, Davidson said.
"They were supposed to be going to a wedding, but nobody knew who was getting married," he said. "[They] had no clothes for the wedding, no luggage."
Davidson said the trooper called the FBI, which determined it was not necessary for the trooper to detain Faarax because "there was no criminal activity or active warrants on that subject," Davidson said.
Adam Ali, Abdow and Faarax all provided birthdates of Jan. 1, a popular birthday for Somali-American refugees who lack birth records from their home country. All three had Minnesota drivers licenses, Davidson said.
The trooper did not question the other two men in the car, Davidson said. Information on the two men was not available. The FBI has not confirmed the identities of anyone in the wagon except for Abdow.
MPR News reported last week that Cabdulaahi "Adaki" Faarax -- a cab driver known for his soccer skills and increasingly religious and politically-charged views -- told friends and acquaintances that he believed federal authorities were closely watching him. On his Facebook page, he spelled his last name as "Faarah," and indicated was 31.
But he gave the Nevada state trooper the last name of "Faarax" and a date of birth of January 1, 1977, making him 32.
The trooper let Faarax go with a warning for speeding.
About 45 minutes after he was released, the highway patrol received word from Minnesota that Abdow was the subject of a missing-persons report filed by his wife in Carver County.
"At that time, we had already let go of the subjects, so we had no contact with them," Davidson said. "Our report ended when we let them go."