Understanding the Indictments Against al-Shabaab

The Somali group sought to recruit in the U.S.

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Attorney General Eric Holder has announced indictments against 14 Americans for allegedly supporting the Somali terrorist organization al-Shabaab. The brutal group has waged civil war in Somalia for years and recently undertook its first and so far only international attack in Uganda, killing 74 civilians in a series of bombings. Holder said the indictments are part of an effort to close what he called al-Shabaab's "deadly pipeline" of recruiting American supporters, some of whom even travel to Somalia to fight.

  • Holder's Announcement  The attorney general told reporters, "The indictments unsealed today shed further light on a deadly pipeline that has routed funding and fighters to the Al-Shabaab terror organization from cities across the United States. ... These arrests and charges should serve as an unmistakable warning to others considering joining or supporting terrorist groups like al-Shabaab: if you choose this route, you can expect to find yourself in a U.S. jail cell or a casualty on the battlefield in Somalia."
  • Who Is Being Charged for What  Politico's Abby Phillip reports, "Seven of those in the indictments announced Thursday are native-born or naturalized American citizens; the other seven are of unspecified nationalities. Ten of the suspects are at large, believed to be in foreign countries — including Shafik Hammami, is a U.S. citizen who has appeared in propaganda videos on behalf of Al-Shabaab and is suspected to hold 'operational responsibilities' within the organization. The two indictments against the Minnesota residents, Ali, 33, and 63-year-old Hassan, allege that the women ran a fundraising operation for the group, including raising $2,100 through a telephone conference with sympathizers. During the call, Ali allegedly told participants to focus on 'the jihad,' and ignore other charities to help the poor and needy in Somalia."
  • The Longer Trend  The Wall Street Journal's Evan Perez explains, "the indictments point to a broader trend of U.S. citizens and residents joining extremist groups and raise fears among authorities that young men trained and radicalized in Somalia could return to the U.S. and pose a threat here." Holder said, "we are seeing an increasing number of individuals—including U.S. citizens—who have become captivated by extremist ideology and have taken steps to carry out terrorist objectives, either at home or abroad. It's a disturbing trend that we have been intensely investigating in recent years and will continue to investigate and root out. But we must also work to prevent this type of radicalization from ever taking hold."
  • U.S. Began Noticing Recruitment in January 2009  Newsweek's Ryan Tracy writes, "in January 2009, a number of Somali nationals in America have traveled or planned to travel back to the East African country to join Al-Shabab, leading investigators to probe whether the group was actively recruiting in America. Al-Shabab has also lured Americans by using the Internet to connect with people who share its radical view of Islam. In July, authorities caught Zachary Chesser—a 20-year-old would-be jihadi from Virginia who threatened the creators of South Park—at a New York airport on his way to Somalia. He later admitted he was trying to join Al-Shabab and had espoused its anti-Western message online. "
  • With Help of U.S. Somalis, Shutting Down the 'Pipeline'  Conservative blogger Ed Morrissey writes, "It’s also worth noting that the Somali community has been very cooperative in that effort, hoping to rescue their sons before they meet with Ahmed’s fate. They even protested against CAIR, after the organization attempted to intercede to limit their cooperation. The wide geographic range of indictments shows that al-Shabab attempted to extend its reach far outside of the Twin Cities. Hopefully, this announcement means that they have rolled up most of the network, if not all of it, and that the law-abiding Somalis in the US won’t have terrorist radicals preying on their sons any longer."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.