The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

May 14, 2013

Man gets 20 years in Somali terror investigation

MINNEAPOLIS — A man who authorities say played a key role in funneling young men from Minnesota to a terrorist group in Somalia was sentenced Monday to 20 years in prison, while another man who was a foot soldier for al-Shabab received a 10-year sentence.

Mahamud Said Omar, 47, and Kamal Said Hassan, 28, learned their sentences Monday as a federal judge in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis began doling out penalties in what has been called one of the largest efforts to recruit U.S. fighters into a foreign terror group.

Hassan is among the more than 20 young men who have left Minnesota since 2007 to join al-Shabab. Minnesota is home to the largest Somali population in the U.S.

Hassan pleaded guilty in 2009 to two terror-related counts and one count of lying to the FBI. He admitted he trained with the al-Qaida-linked group in Somalia and participated in an ambush of Ethiopian troops before returning to the U.S.

“I helped al-Shabab and I lied to the U.S. government, your honor. I can’t take back what I did, but I can show you and my family and the government and the Somali community that I can do better,” a tearful Hassan told Chief U.S. District Judge Michael Davis in Minneapolis before he was sentenced.

Hassan apologized during his 2½-hour sentencing and said he no longer supports al-Shabab or any similar group. He faced a maximum of 38 years in prison, but the government sought a reduced sentence because Hassan gave “extraordinary” cooperation as authorities were building their investigation.

But Davis said he is not convinced that Hassan is not still lying. The judge had a recruitment video played in court that shows Hassan urging others to join the cause in Somalia to show that Hassan can be persuasive.

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