Terror Suspect Pleads Guilty to Conspiring to Help Al Qaeda

MINNEAPOLIS -- A 35-year-old terror suspect who has been held in solitary confinement for more than five years pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiring to provide support and resources to Al Qaeda, federal prosecutors announced Wednesday.

Mohammed Abdullah Warsame's guilty plea comes about two weeks after his attorneys asked that he be released while awaiting trial on charges that also included lying to the FBI.

As part of a plea agreement, he admitted to a single count of conspiring to support Al Qaeda. The other charges will be dismissed.

Authorities have said Warsame, a Canadian of Somali descent, once dined with Usama bin Laden, fought with the Taliban and attended training camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Warsame is in federal custody, and it wasn't immediately clear whether he will be released or have to serve additional time after sentencing July 9.

More On This...

While Warsame faces a statutory maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, the federal sentencing guidelines usually result in lesser sentences. The U.S. attorney's office said Warsame has agreed to be deported to Canada upon completion of his sentence.

Warsame's lead attorney, David Thomas, and Peter Erlinder, a William Mitchell College of Law professor who's been helping the defense, did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.

Under the plea agreement, Warsame admitted to conspiring with others to provide Al Qaeda with personnel, training and currency starting in March 2000. He traveled to Afghanistan and attended several Al Qaeda training camps, including one where authorities said he met bin Laden.

Warsame returned to Canada in March 2001, then relocated to Minneapolis. Throughout 2002 and 2003, he exchanged e-mails and provided information to several people associated with Al Qaeda, according to the plea agreement.

Warsame has been in custody since Dec. 8, 2003. He was first held as a material witness, then indicted six weeks later.

Until Wednesday, Warsame had said he never knowingly attended an Al Qaeda training camp. At a hearing earlier this month, Warsame told U.S. District Court Judge John Tunheim he should be released until trial.

"This is unfair, sir. I've been here a long time," he said.

Tunheim hadn't ruled on the motion by Warsame's attorneys before Wednesday's plea agreement was announced.