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Twin Cities man accused of trying to help ISIS to be held

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Abdirizak Warsame
Abdirizak Warsame
Courtesy of Anoka County Sheriff's Office

Updated: Dec. 10, 12:05 p.m. | Posted: Dec. 9, 7:53 p.m.

An Eagan man accused of providing material support to the terrorist organization ISIS in Syria made his first court appearance Thursday morning before a federal judge.

Abdirizak Warsame, a 20-year-old security guard, was ordered held pending a detention hearing on Tuesday. He will also be assigned a public defender.

When he entered the court room, Warsame, who was arrested Wednesday night, waved at his family. His mother blew a kiss to him and placed her hand on her heart. She declined to speak to the media.

Prosecutors say Warsame encouraged the planned departures of several friends who have since been charged in the massive terrorism case — and at one point, was named their leader, according to a court document filed Wednesday.

Warsame is the 10th Twin Cities man federal authorities have charged with planning to join the terror group ISIS in Syria. He was arrested Wednesday evening. 

The Eagan resident is also accused of providing one of the defendants, Adnan Farah, $200 for Farah's passport application, and seeking to put another traveler, Yusuf Jama, in touch with ISIS contacts. 

He was charged with providing support to a foreign terrorist organization, as well as conspiring to do so. 

Warsame knew that investigators were interested in him. Family members told MPR News the FBI had questioned Warsame and a younger brother in recent years. In August 2014, the family was concerned enough to send the two teens to Chicago to live with their father for a time. Warsame returned to Minnesota in June. 

It was revealed in court that Warsame was represented in grand jury proceedings but it wasn't immediately clear whether he testified.

ISIS terror suspects
Five young men accused of trying to join the ISIS terror group: Hamza Ahmed, Adnan Farah, Mohamed Farah, Abdirahman Daud and Guled Omar.
Hennepin and Anoka County

Warsame graduated in 2013 from Heritage Academy of Science and Technology in Minneapolis, a school that several other defendants attended. A family member said Warsame, who helps his family pay the bills, currently studies at Normandale Community College. 

"Abdirizak Warsame conspired with others to travel to Syria to fight with ISIL," said Assistant Attorney General Carlin. "We will continue to work to stem the flow of foreign fighters abroad and to bring to justice those who seek to provide material support to designated foreign terrorist organizations."

Warsame is a cousin of Abdirahman Daud, one of two Twin Cities men arrested in San Diego in April 2015 after allegedly driving there to buy fake passports.

The complaint said Warsame's involvement with the group of men planning to travel to Syria began as early as March 2014. 

The young men originally elected Guled Omar, who is awaiting trial, as their "emir," or leader. Around that time, Warsame introduced Omar to Yusuf Jama, who had saved $5,000 for his plans to travel to Syria and enlist with ISIS. Jama is now believed to be dead after traveling to the Middle East in June 2014.

Omar, who was preparing for his own trip in the spring of 2014, appointed Warsame to replace him as the emir for the men remaining in Minnesota, according to an affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint.

Authorities say as the group's leader, Warsame immediately encouraged the men who had passports and cash to travel to Syria. He also applied for his own passport in April 2014. 

Mohamed Abdihamid Farah
Mohamed Abdihamid Farah
Courtesy Washington County Jail

But he raised suspicions from the passport officer when he stated that his family was headed for Australia — which contradicted a written application stating he needed the passport for a family reunion in Great Britain. 

He was denied the passport due to "insufficient supporting documentation."

If he had been granted the passport, investigators believe Warsame would have tried departing for Syria in the spring of 2014, according to the affidavit filed by FBI Special Agent Vadym Vinetsky.

Prosecutors say Warsame was involved with Abdullahi Yusuf's attempted departure for Syria in the days leading up to it. 

Yusuf, who has since pleaded guilty and is cooperating with the government, said Warsame accompanied him to deposit cash into a checking account and also to a public library, where Yusuf printed his flight itinerary. The two men, along with defendants Abdi Nur and Mohamed Farah, then went to the mall to shop for "items needed for travel to Syria," according to the court document.

When Yusuf and Warsame's plans failed, they met at a Minneapolis park with the rest of the group, where the two men told their friends they had not provided any information to authorities investigating them.

Within months, by November 2014, several men in the case — Guled Omar, Hanad Musse, Zacharia Abdurahman, Mohamed Farah, and Hamza Ahmed — attempted to leave the United States, but they were stopped by federal authorities. Warsame was living in Chicago at the time. 

But when Warsame visited Minnesota last spring, he joined several conversations involving new plans among some of the men to travel to Syria by way of Mexico. He told the group about how he once suggested to Abdi Nur that the men should rob people to pay for their trips to Syria, prosecutors say. 

Authorities say Warsame's plan was to head for Syria by traveling first to Somalia with his family and then breaking free of them. Warsame told Guled Omar that a conversation he had with Adnan Farah solidified his choice to join ISIS, according to the document.

"My mom and my family and stuff were out of the picture a long time ago," Warsame told Omar, according to a transcription of a recorded conversation in April. "I made that decision a long time ago."

He also said if the terror group al-Shabab pledged allegiance to ISIS, he could wait it out in Somalia and join the group without ever having to leave for Syria.

Warsame offered words of encouragement to Omar in hopes he would travel to Syria to join ISIS, even after Omar's failed previous attempts, according to a transcript of an April 2 conversation recorded by a friend who was secretly working for the FBI. 

Warsame allegedly told his friend that Omar's actions would inspire hundreds, maybe a thousand.

"Not only that but you will give them conviction that anybody can do it," Warsame said. "You will be an inspiration."

Within days of that conversation, FBI agents arrested Omar and five others. 

And five days after the arrests, Warsame tweeted that he missed Omar. 

Aside from Warsame, three of the men have pleaded guilty, and five are scheduled to start trial in May. A tenth man, Abdi Nur, is in Syria.