Friday, January 22, 2010

Somali terror suspect out of jail

Seattle resident is cooperating in the investigation of Minneapolis men who left to fight in Somalia.

By JAMES WALSH, Star Tribune
Friday, January 22, 2010

A Somali man who admitted that he trained with terrorists in Somalia and helped construct a terrorist training camp was released from jail on Thursday pending sentencing.

Abdifatah Yusuf Isse, 25, pleaded guilty to supporting terrorists and has been cooperating for months with investigators working on the case of up to 20 Minneapolis men who returned to jihad in Somalia. He was released after agreeing to pay $25,000 if he does not appear in court when required. U.S. District Judge James Rosenbaum, who has been presiding over the cases of Isse and others indicted, agreed to Isse's release last Friday, according to court documents.

Isse is believed to be the first of the Somali men charged and jailed for aiding terrorists to be released.

He will be sent to a halfway house and will have to wear electronic monitoring equipment, according to conditions set by Rosenbaum.

Isse was one of the first men indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of providing material support to terrorists and conspiracy to kill, kidnap, maim or injure. Since then, 14 men have been indicted or charged in one of this country's largest counterterrorism investigations since 9/11. Four of the men, including Isse, have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing. Others are missing and are presumed to have fled to Somalia.

Isse, of Seattle, Wash., was arrested Feb. 24, 2009, at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. At the time, he said he was going to Tanzania to participate in an internship. He had previously left Minneapolis for Somalia in December 2007.

His attorney, Paul Engh, argued in court papers for Isse's release, noting his cooperation with authorities and the seemingly endless time until sentencing.

On Thursday, Engh would only say: "This kind of case takes a lot longer to complete than the ordinary. His hard incarceration was no longer necessary, in light of the attendant delays."

A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office declined to comment on Isse's release. A spokesman for the Minneapolis office of the FBI also declined to comment.

Defense cites delays in case

In court papers filed in November 2009, Assistant U.S. Attorney W. Anders Folk urged the court to deny Isse's request for release before sentencing, saying that the "government has made every effort, and will continue to make every effort, to allow the defendant to be sentenced as soon as possible but in a manner consistent with the needs of the investigation and the obligations owed to the defendant."

In addition to the 14 men indicted or charged, five Somali men from here have been killed in fighting in Somalia, along with a Muslim convert from Minneapolis.

A link to terror network

Isse is believed to have provided information about the recruitment, funding, travel and training of some of those who left to join al-Shabaab, defined by the U.S. State Department as a terrorist group tied to Al-Qaida.

One of the first men who left was Shirwa Ahmed, 26, a former college student from Minneapolis who was killed in October 2008 in a suicide blast in northern Somalia. Ahmed is believed to be the first U.S. citizen to carry out a suicide bombing. Isse has admitted traveling and living with Ahmed in Somalia.

Ahmed's death, and the subsequent disappearances of other Somalis, heightened fears in the U.S. intelligence community that men from the United States who left to train and fight with a terrorist group might return to America to carry out an attack here. Similar fears have since surfaced on other countries.

James Walsh • 612-673-7428

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