Nearly 200 members of the Somali-American community packed a federal courthouse in St. Paul Thursday in support of a group of young men who they say are wrongly accused of trying to aid the Islamic State militant group in Syria.
Six Minnesotans, ages 19-21, were charged Monday with conspiracy to provide material support to a terrorist organization following a 10-month investigation that involved information from a paid confidential informant to the FBI.
At a hearing Thursday for four of the men – Guled Omar, 20; Adnan Abdihamid Farah, 19; Zacharia Yusuf Abdurahman, 19; and Hanad Mustafe Musse, 19 – a judge ruled the case can move forward, and all four men will be detained until trial, the Star Tribune reports.
The other two men –Mohamed Abdihamid Farah, 21, and Abdurahman Daud, 21 – face a hearing Friday in San Diego, California, where they were arrested, WCCO says.
The judge's decision to allow the trial to move forward came despite defense attorneys' argument that the case against the men is weak, relying heavily on information from an untruthful informant, reports note.
The defense questioned the credibility of the informant, noting the informant lied to investigators before deciding to cooperate with FBI in January of this year, The Associated Press reports.
FBI Special Agent Harry Samit testified at the hours-long hearing Thursday, where he said the informant recorded conversations between the group about their alleged plot to travel to Syria and join the Islamic State militant group, MPR News says.
During testimony about the informant, some supporters who believe the suspects were wrongly targeted expressed their disapproval of the informant.
Many supporters passed out fliers or wore T-shirts that read "free our boys," reports say.
Terrorist recruitment in MN
At least nine Minnesotans have now been charged as part of a conspiracy to provide material support to the Islamic State. The FBI says all of them are suspected associates or friends of one another.
And that's just recently – in the last decade or so, more than 22 young Somali men left Minnesota to join the terror group al-Shabab in Somali, reports note.
These instances are part of what U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger has called Minnesota's ongoing terror recruiting problem.
Following the most recent charges, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, DFL-Minneapolis, spoke with the Star Tribune about curbing terror recruitment efforts in Minnesota, saying it's worrisome that despite local and national efforts, Somali-Americans are still heading overseas to fight someone they don't know.
He told the newspaper officials will have to be more resourceful to reach youths who are turning to terrorism, to communicate the message that instead of terrorism, things can be more effectively changed by active citizenship.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Sen. Al Franken told the Star Tribune Wednesday the Justice Department is making additional funds available to assist in stopping terrorist recruitment in the Twin Cities.