Judge orders Minnesota men held for trial on Islamic State charges

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 23, 2015 5:12 PM

By David Bailey

ST PAUL, Minn. (Reuters) - A U.S. magistrate judge ordered four Somali-American young men held on Thursday pending trial on charges that they conspired to join Islamic State and fight for the militant group in Syria.

Zacharia Yusuf Abdurahman, 19, Adnan Farah, 19, Hanad Mustafe Musse, 19, and Guled Ali Omar, 20, are among a group of six Somali-Minnesota friends and relatives arrested Sunday.

All four men pose a flight risk and a danger to the community, U.S. Magistrate Judge Becky Thorson ruled in U.S. District Court in St. Paul.

Lawyers for the men had argued that they are U.S. citizens, high school graduates, college students or workers with close ties to the community who should be released to a halfway house or their families pending trial.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Docherty said the men in some cases had made multiple attempts to join Islamic State militants or conspired to do so.

"The danger of release is extraordinary in this case," Docherty said.

The six conspired over the past 10 months to leave the United States, prosecutors said. At least one who made it to Syria last year and was charged as a fugitive, Abdi Nur, is believed to have stayed in contact, recruiting others, prosecutors said.

Since 2007, dozens of people from the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, many of them young Somali-American men, have traveled or attempted to travel overseas to support Islamic State or al Shabaab, a Somalia-based militant group, prosecutors have said.

Thorson earlier on Thursday found probable cause for the case to go forward. All six defendants are U.S. citizens, Thursday's hearing covered four men arrested in Minnesota.

Attorneys representing the four defendants said the case was based on constitutionally protectected words, not deeds, and questioned its reliance on an informant.

"This is a slim case," attorney Paul Engh, who represents Adnan Farah, told the judge in seeking its dismissal.

Prosecutors have said another member of the group changed his mind and recorded conversations and meetings. The informant also stepped in, at the FBI's suggestion, to offer a way to obtain passports after another contact fell through, they said.

Detention hearings are set for Friday for two other members of the group, Abdurahman Yasin Daud, 21, and Mohamed Abdihamid Farah, 21, who were arrested in California after driving from Minneapolis to San Diego seeking fake passports.

(Reporting by David Bailey; Editing by Doina Chiacu)