MINNEAPOLIS – A man accused of traveling from the United States to Somalia to fight with Islamic militants has entered a guilty plea on Tuesday to one terror-related charge.
Salah Osman Ahmed pleaded guilty to providing material support to terrorists. As part of a plea deal, other charges will be dropped when Ahmed is sentenced. He could face up to 15 years in prison.
Ahmed said he started attending secret meetings in Minneapolis in October 2007. He said he knew the group was connected to al-Shabab, which the U.S. designated a terrorist group in 2008.
He went to Somalia in December 2007. While there, he said, he helped cut trees for an al-Shabab training camp.
His attorney, Jim Ostgard, had said earlier that Ahmed will tell the court he went to Somalia intending to fight against Ethiopian soldiers — not to fight alongside terrorists.
Ahmed, 26, was the second Somali man to plead guilty in connection with a string of young men who traveled from the Minneapolis area to Somalia in waves to possibly fight with terrorist groups. The federal investigation into the men's departures is ongoing.
Ahmed and Abdifatah Yusuf Isse, 25, were among as many as 20 young men who traveled to Somalia to possibly fight. Family members say at least three others have been killed, including Shirwa Ahmed, who the FBI has said was the first known U.S. citizen to carry out a suicide bombing when he died Oct. 29. Isse pleaded guilty in April to one count of providing material support to terrorists.
As part of Ahmed's plea agreement, one count of conspiracy to kill, kidnap, maim and injure and two counts of lying to the FBI will be dropped when he is sentenced. He has been in custody since his arrest in mid-July.
A spokesman for the U.S. attorney declined comment.
Somalia has not had a functioning government since 1991, when warlords overthrew a socialist dictator then turned on each other, causing chaos in the African nation of 7 million. Islamic insurgents with alleged ties to Al Qaeda recently intensified their efforts to capture the capital city, Mogadishu.
Minneapolis has the largest U.S. concentration of Somali immigrants. Census figures estimate about 32,300 Somalis live in Minnesota, but local advocates say the number is much higher.