Somali-American 'with access to airplanes' set to plead guilty in ISIS case

A Somali-American in Minnesota who had a security badge to work at the St. Paul International Airport -- and allegedly once bragged about being able to “build homemade” rockets he suggested could bring down a plane -- is expected to plead guilty Thursday on the charge of conspiring to provide material support to ISIS.

Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame, 20, is scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court on Thursday for a change-of-plea hearing. Court documents allege Warsame tried to help other young men from Minnesota's Somali community travel to Syria to fight for ISIS.

Warsame was the 10th man from Minnesota's Somali community to be charged since April with terrorism-related counts accusing them of plotting to travel to Syria. He was arrested and charged Dec. 9 with one count of conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization and one count of providing such support.

Nine other members of that group were charged previously; one is believed to be in Syria and three have already pleaded guilty. Five others are scheduled to go to trial in May.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Winter told a court shortly after the arrest that Warsame was recorded having a conversation with an informant bragging that he could build homemade rockets that could reach 2,000 feet.

There was no evidence that Warsame ever tried to build such a rocket and a spokesman from Minnesota’s district attorney’s office played down the viability of the threat at the time.

Under cross-examination from defense attorney Robert Sicoli, Higgins acknowledged that he wasn't aware of any evidence that Warsame ever tried to build such a rocket. Sicoli then asked why, if Warsame was such a threat, authorities didn't arrest him earlier.

Higgins replied that that decision wasn't up to him. The agent also acknowledged that he wasn't aware of Warsame doing anything suspicious, planting bombs or doing anything else illegal at the airport.

Winter told the court that Warsame worked as a baggage handler at the airport, “with access to planes.”

Warsame worked for Integrated Deicing from late 2013 to April 2014. He also worked for Swissport shortly after his employment at Integrated from April 29, 2014 to August 11, 2014, St. Paul International Airport said in an email. He was never employed by the airport.  Neither company immediately responded to for comment.

The Star Tribune reported on a man who appeared to live a double life. He was a fan of NBA player Andrew Wiggins and expressed concern about “my” Minnesota Vikings after his team lost.

But he allegedly encouraged others to team up with ISIS and even paid $200 to help one obtain an expedited passport. Warsame was appointed "emir," or leader of the local group, by Guled Ali Omar, who was planning to leave for Syria but was thwarted and is now among those awaiting trial.

Winter told the court Warsame's time as emir was brief, but it showed his leadership role in the alleged conspiracy, helping with the expedited passport and helping another alleged co-conspirator make contact with Islamic State facilitators in Turkey.’s Edmund DeMarche and The Associated Press contributed to this report