Minnesota jihadist offered advice, support online

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Mohamed Abdullahi Hassan
Known to his friends as "Miski," in August 2008 the Roosevelt High School student left Minneapolis for Somalia at 17.
courtesy of FBI

When news broke on Monday that a Minnesota man who joined al-Shabab seven years ago was in the hands of the Somali government, some jihadists on social media were puzzled.

Many young jihadist sympathizers had looked up to Mohamed Abdullahi Hassan, better known as Mujahid Miski, long known for fighting the Somali forces.

"Never should I trust an Apostate government that bows to Shirk-ocracy [Democracy]," he proclaimed last year when asked if he trusts the Somali government.

In mid-2014, on the anonymous question-and-answer website ask.fm, Hassan gave a hint of his extremist views, offered guidance to potential recruits, responded to questions and engaged with followers in the West.

Although ask.fm suspended Hassan's account soon after it began to attract attention, MPR News saved a collection of Hassan's postings.

His admirers asked him questions that ranged from the frivolous ("What two animals, if combined, would make for an awesome animal?") to the serious: "If I showed up, how quickly do you think I could get to go to a training camp?"

He was asked in what country he would prefer to do his fighting.

"Wallahi," Hassan said, using an Arabic expression, "I believe Sham [Syria] is better then The Rest and Yemen comes second."

Reading back over Hassan's musings on social media, it becomes clear that he was fascinated with Syria and unsatisfied staying in Somalia.

The U.S. State Department said Monday that Hassan had surrendered to Somali authorities in November. Hassan, who turned a fierce critic of al-Shabab after a falling out with the terror group, disputed that assertion and said he had been captured.

Hassan was among a faction of al-Shabab members who recently shifted their support from al-Shabab to ISIS. Al-Shabab and ISIS are rivals in Somalia.

In an interview with the Voice of America, Hassan said the al-Qaida-aligned group raided his house a month ago. Hassan added that he was arrested near the Somali coastal town of Barawe after villagers reported him to government forces.

He denied being a member of ISIS and said he has "no intention of coming back" to the United States.

In 2008, Hassan, then 17, was part of a group of Minnesotans who left for Somalia and took up arms for al-Shabab.

On ask.fm, Hassan used his jihadi moniker, "Mujahid Miski @Muhammad Miski," and described himself as "Just a weak Muhajir [migrant] from the United Snakes who strives to Achieve Shahadah [martyrdom] and to raise up the Black Banner."

In one posting, Hassan said he was praying that God would help him go to Syria one day.

An anonymous user asked: "How did you go from living in America, a westen environment, to living in Jihad feesabilillah [in the cause of Allah]?"

"We were determined to Migrate and leave all that," he replied, "in exchange for what we have today ... which is Living Under the Shari'ah of Allah."

Another user asked if foreign fighters who join al-Shabab buy their own guns or if the group provides them.

Fighters who come from the West, Hassan said, should bring enough money to buy their own AK-47s.

"Consider the Ak47 your first wife," he wrote. "clean it, take good care of it and hold on to is as hard as possible."

Since he became known on social media, Hassan earned a reputation among young people attracted to terrorist groups. But the news of his defection caught some off guard.

One alleged ISIS supporter in Somalia tweeted that Hassan was better off in the hands of the Somali forces "than being tortured and killed by a misguided cult that claims to be mujahideens-Alshabab."

Hassan's supporters repeated his claim that he didn't surrender.

"Our brother #MujahidMiski got caught by the appostate government of Somalia near Barawe. HE DID NOT HAND HIMSELF OVER TO THEM," tweeted Abu Ramzi Ashami, who said he had communicated with Hassan.

But al-Shabab fighters took the opportunity to paint Hassan as a coward, and started a hashtag in Arabic that said: #Mujahid_Miski_Surrendered _To_The_Apostates.

"The man surrendered himself to the apostates," tweeted Ibnu Abu Zubayr, an alleged al-Shabab fighter. "for the past 32 days he was in a security house in Mogadishu with Internet &Telephone to contact his friends."

On ask.fm, Hassan was asked what he missed the most.

"The Fam," Hassan replied, without completing the word "family."

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