A Minnesota man who pleaded guilty to providing material support to terrorists testified Wednesday afternoon in the terror trial of a man charged with facilitating a pipeline of fighters to Somalia.
Mahamud Said Omar faces five federal counts of helping supply fighters as young as 17 to the terrorist group al-Shabab.
One man who traveled to Somalia to train with al-Shabab, Abdifatah Isse, testified that the plot began in 2007 with a group of about ten men at the Abubakar as-Saddique mosque in Minneapolis, where Omar worked as a janitor. He said the men wanted to "wage jihad against the Ethiopian invaders."
Isse said the men met secretly, and made sure to close the doors if anyone was around. He said they were afraid they'd get caught by the government or get in trouble with their parents. He said al Shabab was "just a name."
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"The only thing I knew is that they were fighting the Ethiopian troops," said Isse.
Isse testified that at a restaurant, Omar handed about $500 to another young man, and said good luck with the trip. He told Isse and another young man that if they needed anything once they got to Somalia to call him.
Isse said when the men got to the Somali capital of Mogadishu in 2007, one of their contacts told them to pick new names for security reasons.
He recalled taking a Land Rover to the coastal city of Marka, where he and three other Minneapolis men were introduced to a woman who ran a three-bedroom house. Isse said the woman called herself Umma Shabab, which means "mother of the youth."
Omar's legal team says Omar is a simple janitor who was an unlikely candidate for a jihadist movement.