Published May 03, 2016
Three men accused of trying to leave Minnesota to join the Islamic State group have not renounced the group's violent ideology, and proposals for their pretrial release won't adequately protect the community or guarantee that they'll show up for court, prosecutors said in a court filing Tuesday.
The document was filed in advance of Wednesday hearings on defense attorneys' proposals to release Hamza Naj Ahmed, 21, and Zacharia Yusuf Abdurahman and Hanad Mustafe Musse, both 19. The men, Americans of Somali decent, are among seven people recently charged with plotting to join the terror group in Syria.
The proposals were crafted by the defense with input from Somali community members and religious leaders. They include options for housing, religious education, volunteering and other activities that defense attorneys say are designed to steer the men in a positive direction, assure the community's safety and ensure the men attend court hearings.
"Jobs, family, school and attendance at mosque did not stop the defendants from trying to flee before, and will not stop them from trying again," Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Winter wrote.
Winter said the proposals are untested, and community members who agreed to participate have no experience in supervising terror suspects.
"It is the dangerous intentions of the defendants themselves that concern the government here. Indeed, there is no evidence that the defendants are seeking intervention — rather, it is being foisted upon them by other well-intentioned individuals," Winter said.
U.S. District Judge Michael Davis, who invited attorneys to come up with the community-involved plans, will consider the proposals Wednesday.
Earlier this year, Davis released Yusuf to a halfway house under a plan that required participation in a program designed to keep him engaged. Yusuf, who has pleaded guilty to one terror-related count, was taken back into custody in April after a box cutter was found in a room he shared with others. His attorneys say he didn't know about the box cutter.
The plan for Abdurahman includes regular counseling from an imam and three elders at a mosque that preaches against violent extremism, along with opportunities to work with children and to resume classes at a community college. Ahmed's and Musse's plans have similar options.
Sheikh Abdisalam Adam, the imam at Dar Al-Hijrah Mosque, said he views the men as victims stuck between cultures and searching for identity. Adam said his goal is to "try to redirect their desire for meaning and social engagement into something more productive here at home."
However, Winter noted the men took extraordinary steps to join the Islamic State group even while they knew they were under FBI surveillance. He cited one conversation in which Abdurahman allegedly told an FBI informant that Yusuf was an experiment in a de-radicalization program.
"With me, all of us, we're hopeless, we're not gonna be in a program, bro. We will straight up serve time," Abdurahman allegedly told the informant on March. 15. "They know they cannot change you. Because you're an adult, you know."
Authorities say the men took a bus from Minneapolis to New York City in November and were stopped at JFK Airport before they could travel overseas. Ahmed was arrested in February, and Musse and Abdurahman in April.
Investigators have said a handful of Minnesota residents have traveled to Syria to fight with militants. Since 2007, more than 22 young Somali men have also traveled from Minnesota to Somalia to join the terrorist group al-Shabab.
Follow Amy Forliti on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/amyforliti