Leader of Minnesota ISIS group gets 35-year sentence

Minnesota man described as a leader of a group of people who plotted to join ISIS sentenced to 35 years in prison.

Ben Ariel,

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Reuters

A Minnesota man described as a leader of a group of nine people who plotted to travel to Syria to fight for the Islamic State (ISIS) group was sentenced to 35 years in prison Wednesday, The Associated Press reports.

Two other members of what U.S. District Judge Michael Davis repeatedly called a "terrorist cell" — Mohamed Farah and Abdirahman Daud, both 22 — were sentenced earlier Wednesday to 30 years in prison apiece.

On Tuesday, two other members of the same group were sentenced to 15 years and 10 years in prison for conspiring to support ISIS.

But Guled Omar, 22, drew the longest sentence of the nine defendants who appeared before Davis this week, noted AP.

"I understand the seriousness of what I've been convicted of, and I understand that I will not be able to go home anytime soon," Omar told the judge as he awaited his sentence, which ended up being less than the 40 years prosecutors sought. "I always had energy for justice as a young man but I lost my way."

Omar's statement sent his mother in the gallery into sobbing uncontrollably while other family members left the courtroom to collect their emotions, but the judge did not buy it.

"Everything you have said here, I don't believe," Davis said, according to AP, while Prosecutor Andrew Winter said Omar's tears could not be trusted.

"Only when backed into a corner, does he attempt to offer false contrition. You can't fix manipulative. You can't fix deceitful. And you can't fix Guled Omar. He has blood on his hands," Winter said.

A jury convicted Omar, Farah and Daud in June of conspiring to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization and conspiracy to commit murder outside the U.S.

Prosecutors said the plot involved of a group of friends in the state's large Somali community who inspired each other to join the jihadist group. Some of their friends made it to Syria, but the nine who were caught did not.

All in all, six other defendants, who pleaded guilty instead of going to trial, were sentenced Monday and Tuesday.

Minnesota has the largest concentration of Somali immigrants in the U.S. — 57,000, according to census data — and the community has been a target for recruiters.

The FBI has said about a dozen people have left Minnesota to join jihadist groups in Syria in recent years. Before that, more than 22 men were recruited to Al-Shabaab in Somalia since 2007.

Examples include a 16-year-old accused of planning to join the group and who was found guilty of illegal possession of a firearm in South Carolina, having been charged with this offense as South Carolina has no anti-terrorism laws.

In Arizona, a local man was charged in 2015 with supporting ISIS by helping a New York college student get terror training in Syria.

Also in Arizona, a local teenager who described himself as an “American jihadist” was sentenced last week to eight years in prison for plotting an attack on government buildings and the Tucson Jewish Community Center.


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