3 Minnesota men found guilty of plotting to join ISIS
Updated 4:10 p.m. | Posted 1:33 p.m.
A federal jury has found three men guilty of plotting to join the terror group ISIS and commit murder overseas.
Guled Omar, 21, and Mohamed Farah, 22, were found guilty on all charges. Abdirahman Daud, 22, was found guilty on all terror counts, but not guilty of lying to a grand jury.
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Family members sobbed upon hearing the verdicts. Plotting to commit murder overseas is a charge that carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
The three men were taken into custody by U.S. marshals. Community activist Sadik Warfa said an appeal is planned.
The verdict was read amid heavy security around the Minneapolis federal courthouse. Court was remarkably quiet prior to the verdict with people whispering and journalists checking their phones and getting notepads ready.
Judge Michael Davis praised the jury after the decision was read. "You've come back with a fair and just verdict," he told them
U.S. Attorney for Minnesota Andrew Luger said the men knew what they were doing.
"There were repeated attempts (to go to Syria) even after acquiring deep knowledge of the brutality" of ISIS, he told reporters after the verdict was read. "They knew exactly what they were doing, becoming terrorists bound and determined to kill" for ISIS.
The terror group, he added, continues to reach out "to our youth with a powerful and false message. This is no time for people to stick their heads in the stand."
The three Somali-Americans were among nine young Minnesota men arrested since 2014 for allegedly plotting to join ISIS in Syria. Six — Abdullahi Yusuf, Zacharia Abdurahman, Hanad Musse, Abdirizak Warsame, Adnan Farah and Hamza Ahmed — pleaded guilty to conspiring to travel to Syria to join ISIS.
Omar, Daud and Mohamed Farah, however, took their cases to an all-white Twin Cities jury in a trial that drew worldwide interest and opened a window onto ISIS' sophisticated propaganda and recruiting techniques.
Their families insisted the men were innocent and never intended to harm their country. During the trial, their defense attorneys portrayed the young men as talkers but not doers — teens caught on tape slamming America and talking big about fighting in Syria but nothing more.
When prosecutors, for example, played portions of secretly recorded tapes where Omar threatened to kill Turkish security officials he called "freaking pigs," Omar told the court his words were only youthful boasts intended to impress his friends.
"I was trying to sound like a big, bad guy who knows what he's doing," he told the court. "We all boast. Everyone wants to sound more tough."
Beyond trying to join ISIS, the men were accused of plotting to commit murder overseas, a charge that carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, as well as conspiring to provide material support to a terrorist organization, a charge that carries up to 15 years in prison.
The case divided Minnesota's Somali-American community. Some leaders argued that the government was overreaching in its anti-terrorism efforts, arresting impressionable young Muslim men who recently graduated from high schools and never left the United States.
None of the men on trial had previously committed a crime.
The FBI launched its probe in 2014 when reports surfaced about the departures of several Minnesotans believed to have joined radical groups in Syria. Many in the Twin Cities Somali community were shocked at the magnitude of the arrests and charges.
The community came under scrutiny from law enforcement and the media. Some saw parallels to the arrests of several men six years earlier for attempting to aid the terrorist group al-Shabab in Somalia and asked how could it happen again.
"It was a tragedy for all of us," Warfa said later in the day.
"Young men have been arrested for a crime we believe is set up. That's what the community believes. But now we have to respect," Warfa added. "In America, we have a system, we may disagree with the system but the court has rendered a verdict. The family is grieving."