Judge detains alleged Minnesota terror recruit

Updated 5:46 a.m. Thursday | Posted 6:48 p.m. Wednesday

A Minnesota teenager who was temporarily freed after he was accused of trying to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State group was taken back into custody Wednesday after a federal judge ruled that he posed a flight risk and a danger to the community but held out the possibility of freeing him later.

Abdullahi Yusuf, 18, of the St. Paul suburb of Inver Grove Heights, was arrested last week, six months after FBI agents stopped him at the Minneapolis airport as he prepared to leave the United States for Turkey. He was charged with conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. A co-defendant, Abdi Nur, 20, of Minneapolis, was also charged but is believed to be outside the U.S.

Authorities say a handful of Minnesota residents have traveled to Syria, which borders Turkey, to fight with militants within the last year. Both Yusuf and Nur are members of Minnesota's Somali community, the largest in the U.S.

A magistrate judge last week released Yusuf to his parents after his attorney pointed out he didn't flee during the six months while he knew he was being investigated. But federal prosecutors argued again Wednesday that Yusuf deceived his parents before and could do it again. Chief U.S. District Judge Michael Davis agreed with the prosecutors.

"The court finds that releasing this defendant to his parents does not reasonably assure his appearance or the safety of the community," he said.

Davis said Yusuf's electronic monitoring device was "not infallible" and could be cut off. He said Yusuf could slip out of the country even though he has surrendered his U.S. passport. But he also gave the defense an opening.

"If there is a plan that can be put in place that can have the Somali community and others assist the court in the supervision of this young man, I will look at releasing him," Davis said before marshals led Yusuf away.

Somali community activist Omar Jamal expects a discussion on a possible plan to occur soon.

Outside the courtroom, Yusuf's attorney, Jean Brandl, told his parents and supporters they'll all need to try to work out a solution.

Court documents allege that Yusuf was able to hide weeks of planning from his parents. Yusuf had no job last May when he obtained an expedited passport, opened a checking account, deposited $1,500 in cash and bought a plane ticket to Istanbul, Turkey. And agents watched on two separate dates in May as he left school after his father had dropped him off, picking up his passport the first time and heading to the airport the second time.

MPR News reporter Peter Cox contributed to this report.