Called to Fight

Minnesotan charged with trying to aid ISIS released to halfway house

Updated 7:06 p.m. | Posted 12:41 p.m.

An 18-year-old man who authorities say tried to travel to Syria to join the radical group Islamic State will be released to a halfway house pending trial.

Chief U.S. District Judge Michael Davis said it's possible Abdullahi Yusuf of Inver Grove Heights may also participate in a civics program aimed at re-integrating him into U.S culture.

The proposal for Yusuf is an "experiment" that could rehabilitate radicalized individuals who pose a low risk of harming the community, said Mary McKinley, executive director of the Minneapolis nonprofit Heartland Democracy, which runs the program.

"We can't incarcerate all those people," McKinley said. "The numbers are just too great. What we are trying to do ultimately is actually engage people in their communities before those ideas become attractive."

As part of his release, Yusuf will have to wear a GPS ankle bracelet and refrain from going online or using a cell phone.

Out of the three Minnesotans who have been publicly charged in the investigation into possible radicalization of Americans for terror groups in Syria, Yusuf is the only one who had not left the country.

Federal authorities detained Yusuf for questioning last spring at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. He was free until his arrest about six months later when he was charged with conspiracy to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization.

McKinley is proposing that Yusuf be part of a larger peer group of Somali-American youth who are straddling two cultures.

She said discussions with Somali-American elders in his community have been fruitful.

"Though they don't necessarily appreciate the high profile nature of this case and the attention that it's putting on their community, I think they do realize this might be kind of a wake-up call -- that their young people do need some attention and maybe some more specific services for the ... recruiting that obviously now we know is going on," McKinley said.

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