US seeks max 15-year prison term for Kenyan in terror case

AP News
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Posted: Aug 25, 2015 2:39 PM

MIAMI (AP) — A Kenyan man who admitted that he provided thousands of dollars in cash and recruits to foreign terror organizations in Africa and the Middle East should get the maximum 15-year sentence in U.S. prison, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.

Mohamed Said, a 27-year-old native of Mombasa, Kenya, served as a financier and recruiter for Africa's violent al-Shabaab organization as well as al-Qaida affiliates in Syria and elsewhere, Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Frazier said in a court filing. Many of Said's plots were captured in FBI undercover recordings and conversations between Said and an FBI "online covert employee," the prosecutor added.

"Said was not just a dreamer but also a doer, an operator," Frazier said.

Said pleaded guilty to terror support conspiracy in May and faces sentencing Friday before Miami U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro. A co-defendant, Gufran Mohammed, is serving a 15-year prison term after also pleading guilty.

The pair were arrested in 2013 in Saudi Arabia in a case that evolved from FBI monitoring of Internet chat rooms frequented by Islamic extremists, including Mohammed. Said received at least $11,600 from Mohammed intended for al-Shabaab, according to court documents.

Said's attorney wants a more lenient eight-year sentence, in part because Said never engaged in any military training and did not target the U.S. or plot against Americans, they said.

"There is no evidence that Mr. Said's actions were specifically intended to target the United States for attack," defense lawyer Silvia Pinera-Vazquez said in her court filing. "On the contrary, his actions demonstrate that Mr. Said's motivation was to assist al-Shabaab in Africa."

Still, the FBI evidence contains ominous snippets that Said one day hoped to stage an attack against U.S. interests. At one point, Frazier said, Said tried to recruit an FBI informant to stage a "lone wolf" attack on U.S. soil similar to the 2011 attacks in Norway that killed 77 people.

He also told the FBI covert employee in an email that he knew a British citizen who could travel to the U.S. to stage a suicide attack, the prosecutor said — comparing the unidentified person to the 19 hijackers who pulled off the 9/11 attacks.

"He is willing to join any group and if you want (to give) him work in the U.S., like martyrdom operations, that won't be a problem," Said wrote in the email. "I'll ask him if he wishes to be like those 19 brothers."

In yet another communication with the FBI covert employee, Said is quoted as saying he wished he had tried to assassinate then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during one of her visits to Africa. There's no evidence in the documents that he ever took steps to do so.

"Allah knows best why nothing happen," Said is quoted as saying.

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Follow Curt Anderson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Miamicurt