Jury convicts Mahamud Said Omar in Somalia terrorism case - KMSP-TV

Jury convicts Mahamud Said Omar in Somalia terrorism case


Jurors have delivered a guilty verdict in the trial of a Minnesota man accused of helping send men to Somalia to join the al-Qaida-linked group al-Shabab.

Mahamud Said Omar was convicted on all five terrorism-related counts in the FBI's investigation into what it called a "terror pipeline" dating back to 2007. 

Omar has been accused of providing material support during the recruitment of more than 20 Minneapolis-area Somali men who returned to their native land to join al-Shabab.

"You cannot cross certain lines, and one of those lines is: You cannot provide material support to a designated terrorist organization such as al-Shabab," said U.S. attorney B. Todd Jones.

Prosecutors say Omar bought plane tickets to Somalia for Minnesota recruits and paid for weapons for some of them, even accusing Omar of using the young men as "cannon fodder."

The government claimed most of the recruiting was done in secret meetings at the south Minneapolis mosque where Omar worked as a part-time janitor. During the trial, witnesses testified that he helped buy AK-47s for the recruits.

Some of the recruits are believed to have been killed by the terror group once they went to Somalia, others would carry out attacks -- including the first-known U.S.-born suicide bomber.

After the verdict was read, Omar smiled and raised both of his hands to waive to his family members in the courtroom.

The judge did not set a sentencing date after the verdict was read, but Omar could face life in prison.

Omar denies wrongdoing and says he has never supported al-Shabab. His attorney, Andrew Birrell, claimed the government's case was built on the false testimony of former recruits because they were under pressure to find out why men were being recruited by al-Shabab.

Birrell said the three travelers who made plea deals and testified against Omar can't be trusted. During the 10-day trial, the defense offered no witnesses of their own.

However, Omar Jamal, a Somali representative to the United Nations, said he would not second-guess the jury's verdict even though he believes Omar is merely a bit player and is far-removed from the masterminds behind the recruiting efforts.

"I believe that the government still has a long way to go to those who are really the mind behind this, to bring them to justice," he said.

Even Jones agreed with that assessment, saying the conviction will not mark the end of the road for investigators.

"This case does not offer closure on the phenomenon of al-Shabab, and it's not closure on our vigilance," he said.

Sadik Warfa, an active member of the Somali Community, said he has faith in the justice system, but he hopes the conviction won't lead to a misconception.

"I don't want a few bad apples to make a bad name for the 99.9 percent of good Somali Americans," Warfa said. "We are here to stay. This is our home. The message that I want to send is: We want America to be safe and secure as well as anybody else."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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