The leader of a group of Twin Cities men accused of plotting to help the Islamic State terrorist group has pleaded guilty.
Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame, 20, was arrested in December and is among 10 men charged last year with conspiring to provide material support to the extremist group.
He pleaded guilty Thursday, becoming the fourth to do so, a news release says. Five of his suspected co-conspirators are scheduled to go to trail in May. (A 10th man charged is believed to be in Syria.)
By pleading guilty, Warsame admitted to planning to travel to Syria to fight with the Islamic State terror group, and also to encouraging and helping others travel to the Middle East for the same reason, the release notes. (Read the full charges against him here.)
As for why he wanted to help the Islamic State group, Warsame told U.S. District Judge Michael Davis he "felt like it was a duty to go and help the innocent people of Iraq and Syria at the time, because of the oppression," the Star Tribune reports.
Warsame told the judge videos radicalized him, not mosques in Minnesota, MPR News reports. He said he watched al-Shabaab videos, but when Islamic State became popular, he watched those propaganda videos instead.
Warsame's sentencing date hasn't been set. If convicted, he could face up to 15 years in prison.
National Public Radio is reporting sources familiar with the case say Warsame could join Abdullahi Yusuf in a de-radicalization program in the Twin Cities. If this happens, it would have to be approved by the judge, the publication notes.
An 'ongoing problem'
Terrorist recruiting in Minnesota "is an ongoing problem," U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger said in the news release, adding that federal and local law enforcement "remain dedicated to ending terror recruitment in our state."
"One of the important factors we believe will help stop the recruiting pipeline is for those who have been charged to take responsibility for their crimes," Luger added. "I am encouraged that today Mr. Warsame is doing just that. He has now taken the first step to help himself begin the process of rehabilitation and help our entire community begin to heal."
The Twin Cities is home to the largest Somali population in the United States, according to U.S. News, and reports note dozens of young men have left the state to join extremist groups in recent years.
To help combat Minnesota's "terror recruiting problem," three state lawmakers asked the legislature for $2 million to invest in community-based programs that work to keep at-risk kids from turning to extremist groups.