A federal judge sentenced a Somali man to 10 years in prison for failing to acknowledge ties to two global terrorist groups after he was arrested near the Texas-Mexico border in 2008, the U.S. Justice Department said Thursday night.
Ahmed Muhammed Dhakane, 25, prompted the Department of Homeland Security to issue an alert in May 2010 asking Houston-area authorities to be on the lookout for a suspected member of al-Shabaabp, an al-Qaida ally based in Somalia. That warning came when two new charges of lying on a U.S. asylum application were filed against Dhakane, who had been arrested on immigration charges in Brownsville, across the Rio Grande from Matamoros, Mexico, in March 2008.
Dhakane pleaded guilty on Nov. 2 to two counts of lying on his asylum application, and the Justice Department said in a statement that he failed to acknowledge he had been a member of, or associated with, al-Barakat and Al-Ittihad Al-Islami, from prior to Sept. 11, 2001, until January 2003.
Al-Barakat is a financial transfer network; Al-Ittihad al-Islami, or the Islamic Union, wants to impose Islamic law in Somalia. Both are on the U.S. Treasury Department's list of global terrorist groups with links to al-Qaida, according to the indictment against Dhakane.
U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez in San Antonio sentenced Dhakane to 10 years behind bars, and ordered that he be placed under supervised release for three years after completing his prison term.
The Justice Department said Dhakane also provided false information concerning his entry into the United States when he claimed he and his wife traveled from Somalia to Mexico via Russia, Cuba, Costa Rica and Guatemala. Instead, the statement said, from June 2006 until March 2008, Dhakane resided in Brazil where he participated in _ and later ran _ a large-scale human smuggling enterprise
Dhakane also lied about his traveling partner, a minor he claimed was his wife. The Justice Department said she was actually a smuggling client, that the pair were never married, and that Dhakane repeatedly raped and eventually impregnated her prior to traveling to the U.S. He also threatened to have her killed if she told authorities he had raped her, and that they were never married, according to the statement.
Citing a Justice Department memo and other documents it obtained, the San Antonio News-Express reported in March that federal officials believed Dhakane helped "violent jihadists" from East Africa sneak through Mexico and into Texas.
Despite his pleading guilty to making false statements while under oath in the immigration proceedings, Dhakane has denied that he smuggled potential terrorists into the U.S., and also says he never helped groups accused of funding terrorism.