MINNEAPOLIS – Some of the four Minnesota men facing trial next month for conspiring to join the Islamic State group had discussed the possibility of attacks in the United States, according to a document filed by prosecutors.
Prosecutors said one defendant, Guled Ali Omar, talked about establishing a route from the U.S. to Syria through Mexico, then telling the Islamic State group about the route so it could be used to send fighters into America to carry out attacks.
The document, filed Wednesday, is one of many filed in recent weeks as prosecutors and defense attorneys argue about which evidence should be allowed at the men's trial, which starts May 9.
The men — Omar, 21; Hamza Naj Ahmed, 21; Mohamed Abdihamid Farah, 22; and Abdirahman Yasin Daud, 22 — have pleaded not guilty to multiple charges, including conspiracy to commit murder outside the U.S. Prosecutors have said they were part of a group of friends in Minnesota's Somali community who held secret meetings and plotted to join the Islamic State group.
Five other men have pleaded guilty to one count each of conspiracy to support a foreign terrorist organization. A tenth man charged in the case is at-large, believed to be in Syria.
The government's document was filed in response to a defense request that prosecutors be barred from introducing evidence about possible attacks in the U.S.
Last week, Daud's attorney wrote that, absent any specific evidence that his client threatened the United States, any references to discussions about attacks would be prejudicial. To permit such references, as well as references to the Sept. 11 attacks or exhibits that show violent images of war crimes, "would cause the jurors to decide out of fear and contempt alone," defense attorney Bruce Nestor wrote.
But prosecutors said audio recordings obtained during the investigation show the defendants spoke multiple times about the possibility of attacks in the U.S. Among them, Omar spoke of establishing a route for fighters, Farah spoke of killing an FBI agent and another man who pleaded guilty talked about shooting a homemade rocket at an airplane.
Prosecutors wrote that they should be allowed to "play for the jury the defendants' own words, in which they discuss the possibility of returning to attack the United States." They also said the defendants watched videos and gruesome images, which they also want to play for the jury, and that a blanket ban on mentioning the 2001 attacks is inappropriate, noting that Omar had pictures of the burning World Trade Center towers and Osama bin Laden on his cellphone.
A phone message left with Omar's attorney wasn't immediately returned.
The FBI has said about a dozen people have left Minnesota to join militant groups fighting in Syria in recent years. In addition, since 2007 more than 22 men have joined al-Shabab in Somalia.
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