FBI: Man exchanged calls, text messages with al-Shabab recruits

Mohamud Said Omar
This undated file family photo made available by his family in Minneapolis shows Mahamud Said Omar, who is accused of providing money and people to al-Shabab, a U.S.-designated terror group at the center of much of the violence in Somalia. Omar's trial begins Monday, Oct. 1, 2012, giving the public its best chance yet to peer behind the curtain of a years-long investigation into how and why some young Somali expatriates decided to risk their lives for insurgents back home.
AP Photo/Family of Mohamud Said Omar, File

Phone records tracked by the FBI show a Minneapolis man accused of supporting a Somali terror group exchanged hundreds of calls and text messages with a second wave of al-Shabab recruits from the Twin Cities.

Mahamud Said Omar appeared to be in frequent phone contact with several men who left for Somalia in late 2008, FBI Special Agent Casey Villarreal told federal jurors Monday. She said the calls spiked around the days of their departure and immediately after an October 2008 suicide bombing of a Minneapolis man in Somalia.

But Villarreal said she did not know what was said on those phone calls. Nor could she be certain who was speaking in the conversations.

Kiann VanDenover, the FBI special agent in charge of the investigation into Omar, testified that he admitted to federal agents that he met several early al-Shabab recruits at a house affiliated with the terror group in the Somali port city of Marka.

VanDenover interrogated Omar following his May 2009 arrest in the Netherlands, and again in spring 2011. Omar sought asylum in that country after arriving in Amsterdam in late 2008.

During a 2011 interview with the government from the Vught prison in the Netherlands, Vandenover played audio of intercepted phone calls implicating Omar. Vandenover recalled the defendant telling his Somali translators, "They got me."

But Omar said he is innocent. His lawyers have said that he made incriminating statements in the Dutch prison only because he feared for his life. He was isolated 23 hours a day for about a year and a half, his attorneys said.

Omar was extradited to Minnesota in August 2011 to face five terror-related charges.

Over the weekend, the government filed a motion alleging two of Omar's brothers coached him to lie to the court. A motion filed Sunday contained excerpts of recorded phone conversations Omar had from the Anoka County jail.

In one discussion on May 10, Abdullahi Omar directed his brother to testify that he went to Somalia to visit an uncle, and that he only went to visit an al-Shabab safe house because he was held at gunpoint, the government alleges.

On June 24, another brother, Mohamed Omar Osman, told the defendant to say he traveled to Somalia to visit a sick uncle, and that he went directly from Mogadishu to the city of Bardhere, according to prosecutors.

According to the transcript, Osman said: "When they come to you, say 'One, two three; I went to visit my sick uncle in Bardhere; I married a woman; I came back to America.' Can't you say those three?"

An attorney for Omar declined to comment to reporters Monday about the most recent allegations.

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