Minnesota woman charged with stealing passport to go to Syria

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 02, 2014 6:22 PM

By Aruna Viswanatha

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A 20-year-old Minnesota woman was charged on Tuesday with stealing a friend's passport to travel to Syria, the U.S. Attorney's office said.

The criminal complaint alleged that Yusra Ismail, of St. Paul, used the stolen U.S. passport to fly to Amsterdam and Norway last August.

She contacted her family several days later and told them she was in "Sham," a term used to describe the area controlled by Islamic State, the militant group that has captured territory in Syria and Iraq and carried out gruesome executions of civilians and foreigners.

Prosecutors said there is no record of Ismail, who is not a U.S. citizen, returning to the United States. She had booked a return ticket, according to the complaint, but there is no record of any traveler using that ticket.

U.S. authorities for years have been concerned about the number of young Somali-Americans traveling from the Minneapolis area, which has a large community of Somali expatriates, to join al Shabaab, a militant Al Qaeda affiliate based in Somalia.

The new case comes one week after the same office charged two Minnesota men of Somali ancestry, ages 18 and 20, with supporting Islamic State.

Last summer, FBI officials said they had begun tracking a trickle of Somali-Americans from the Twin Cities area to Syria in general and to Islamic State-held areas in particular.

FBI Director James Comey said last month his agency was tracking close to 150 Americans it believed had traveled to Syria. A federal official said authorities believe about a dozen Americans were fighting there with the Islamic State.

(Reporting by Aruna Viswanatha; editing by Gunna Dickson)