Judge calls Minn. terror defendant who recently worked at a school a 'danger' to the community

Published October 24, 2012

| Associated Press

A Minnesota man who has been accused of using his knowledge of the Quran to persuade young men to leave the state in 2007 and fight with terror group al-Shabab in Somalia has been working in a position of authority at an Islamic school, authorities said Wednesday.

Chief U.S. District Judge Michael Davis called Omer Abdi Mohamed a "danger to the community," and ordered that he remain in custody until he is sentenced on one terror-related count in the government's ongoing investigation into the recruiting of more than 20 young men who authorities say left Minnesota to join the al-Qaida-linked group.

Mohamed, 27, pleaded guilty last year. He was free, pending sentencing, but was arrested last week after authorities said he violated conditions of his release by not reporting employment.

They said he had been working at Essential Learning of Minnesota Institute, a nonprofit program that offers after-school homework help, recreation activities and religious classes to children.

Mohamed's attorney, Peter Wold, claims his client did not violate conditions of release and worked at the school as a volunteer, not as a paid employee. He said Mohamed didn't know that details of volunteer work needed to be spelled out, but that Mohamed was telling the truth — that he was helping teachers at the school.

Mohamed's arrest came on the heels of a recent trial in which three witnesses said they considered him to be a leader in recruiting efforts in Minnesota in 2007. One of the witnesses said Mohamed recited Quran verses about fighting, telling him would be a good Muslim if he went to Somalia.

Davis said Wednesday that the court had a wealth of information about Mohamed's alleged activities in the web of "secret" indoctrination of Somali youth, adding, "the treacherous web has been exposed."

The executive director of the school, which is called ELMI for short, could not be reached by The Associated Press.

In his plea agreement last year, Mohamed had admitted helping some of the men get tickets for travel. He claimed he was never a terrorist but motivated by patriotism and a push to expel Ethiopian troops that had been called in to restore order by Somalia's U.N.-backed government. He said his involvement ended before the U.S. designated al-Shabab a terrorist group.

Wold has told The Associated Press that he hadn't heard his client was accused of being a leader in recruiting until it was brought up in court recently.

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