SAN DIEGO – A Somali-born woman was sentenced Tuesday to eight years in prison for routing money to a terrorist organization in her native country.
Nima Ali Yusuf, who pleaded guilty last December to one count of conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, is one of several people linked to al-Shabab in a federal investigation centered in Minnesota. Yusuf, 26, acknowledged sending $1,450 to four people she knew were affiliated with al-Shabab in 2009 and 2010 and lying to FBI and Homeland Security investigators about the payments.
Prosecutors urged U.S. District Judge Barry Ted Moskowitz to sentence Yusuf to 10 years in prison, saying it would send a strong message to others considering support for groups deemed terrorist organizations. Al-Shabab, based in Somalia, is designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department.
Prosecutors characterized Yusuf at the time of her involvement with the fighters as an insecure woman in her mid-20s "whose extremist beliefs made her feel better by making her feel part of something big."
"She clearly relished her proximity to the fighters and the reflected glory she felt when describing their exploits and tribulations to her friends," Sabrina Feve, an assistant U.S. attorney, wrote the judge.
Yusuf's attorneys recommended five years in prison, saying the money was to help her friends with living expenses and debt relief and not intended as "direct support" for al-Shabab. Still, they acknowledged that she embraced al-Shabab's efforts.
"(She) discouraged the young men from engaging in martyrdom operations, such as suicide attacks, but was otherwise supportive of their willingness to give up everything to fight against the Ethiopian troops and the transitional federal government of which she herself had been a victim."
Yusuf's family was granted asylum in the U.S. and settled in Salt Lake City in 2001.
"I am and will always be thankful to this country for the help my family was given. There's nothing by sorrow in my heart for causing this problem and cost to the government," she wrote.