One of the Minnesota men set to go to trial next month on charges he planned to support the Islamic State militant group has now switched his plea.
Hamza Ahmed, 20, is now pleading guilty to conspiracy to provide material support to the deisgnated terrorist organization, as well as financial aid fraud, according to court documents filed Monday.
Ahmed was one of the five suspects who initially pleaded not guilty to such charges last fall. He was set to go to trial in May.
Charges against Ahmed, laid out in a superseding indictment last fall (meaning additional charges that were filed after an initial round of charges) say he took a bus to New York in November of 2014 – with the ultimate goal of then flying to Syria.
He actually made it on the plane, but authorities escorted him off the aircraft before it took off, the Department of Justice said.
Second suspect to switch plea in recent weeks
Another suspect, Adnan Farah, also switched his plea to guilty earlier this month.
The judge also ordered Farah take part in the same study four suspects who previously pleaded guilty are being enrolled in – a plan to see if they can be “de-radicalized” and integrated back into society. Read more about what the study will entail here.
Ahmed's plea notes an order will be filed for him to participate in a "risk assessment interview process."
MPR also has a story about how his Twitter account tipped off agents.
Terrorism recruitment in Minnesota
The Twin Cities area 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. It’s a concern for the local Somali community as well.
In September, a government task force published a report looking at the cases of 58 individuals who left the U.S. to fight with Islamist militant groups overseas. It found 15 of those people came from Minnesota, the largest number from any state. (Those numbers only come from a sample size, though, as the number of American foreign fighters is thought to be in the hundreds, the report says.)
Terrorist recruiting in Minnesota “is an ongoing problem,” U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger has said, adding that federal and local law enforcement “remain dedicated to ending terror recruitment in our state.”