NEW YORK – A Maryland man pleaded guilty Friday to federal terrorism charges in New York after he was accused of fighting on behalf of an al-Qaida-affiliated terror group in Somalia.
Federal prosecutors say 32-year-old Maalik Jones trained with and supported al-Shabab, an ultra-conservative Islamic militant group. The group seeks to run Somalia under a strict interpretation of Shariah law.
Jones was turned over to U.S. officials by Somali authorities who arrested him Dec. 7, 2015, as he allegedly tried to get on a boat to travel to Yemen.
A U.S. citizen born in Maryland, Jones pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to provide material support to al Shabab; one count of conspiring to receive military training from a terrorist group; and a weapons charge. He is facing a minimum of 30 years in prison and a maximum of life. He is to be sentenced Jan. 25.
Initially, he pleaded not guilty to five charges.
According to court documents, Jones traveled overseas in 2011 where he was trained by the terror group in Somalia on how to fire an AK-47 and rocket-propelled grenade. Authorities say he confessed to FBI agents that he fought Kenyan government soldiers in a battle until he was injured by a missile strike. He admitted he was paid $100 monthly by al-Shabab for four years, officials said.
He was recorded on at least two videos with other al-Shabab fighters, according to court documents. Al-Qaida and al-Shabab merged in 2012, the FBI has said.