Three men were sentenced to prison Tuesday for plotting to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State (ISIS) group, as a federal judge concluded the second day of sentencing in a case that shed a light on terror recruiting in the state.
Adnan Farah, 20, and Hanad Musse, 21, were each sentenced to 10 years in prison for conspiring to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization. Hamza Ahmed, 21, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for that count and another count of financial aid fraud.
All three were also given at least 20 years of supervised release.
They are among nine men in Minnesota’s large Somali community who prosecutors say were part of a group of friends who inspired and recruited each other to join the Islamic terror group. Some of their friends made it to Syria, but the nine who were prosecuted did not.
Their sentencings come a day after three of their co-defendants were sentenced, including two who cooperated with authorities and were given lighter penalties. Farah, Musse, Ahmed, and the other man sentenced Monday all pleaded guilty but did not cooperate with prosecutors.
Three men who went to trial and were convicted on a more serious charge of conspiracy to commit murder outside the US will be sentenced Wednesday. That count carries a possible life sentence, but prosecutors are seeking sentences of 30 or 40 years.
‘I Am a Terrorist, Your Honor’
At his hearing, Farah, whose older brother is among those to be sentenced Wednesday, criticized the Somali community for not taking radicalization seriously. But prosecutors said he was shifting blame.
US District Judge Michael Davis addressed the courtroom and said he has no doubt there is a jihadi cell in Minneapolis. He also addressed Farah’s parents, telling them their children lied.
“I would never want to be in your place, having two sons that are going to go to prison,” Davis said.
During his hearing, Musse apologized for lying to his family and said he committed a serious offense. The judge asked Musse directly whether he was a terrorist, and Musse replied: “I am a terrorist, your honor.”
Musse, Ahmed and two other men took a Greyhound bus from Minneapolis to New York in November 2014 and were stopped by federal agents as they tried to travel overseas from JFK Airport, according to authorities. The men were being watched as part of an ongoing investigation into terror recruiting.
Ahmed told the court on Tuesday that he was grateful he was pulled off the airplane, acknowledging it probably saved his life. He also acknowledged that he has some work to do.
“I want you to understand I am not completely changed,” Ahmed told Davis. “I’m in the process, but nobody changes overnight. I’m trying every day. I want to reach that point.”
Davis, who has handled all of Minnesota’s terror conspiracy cases, had the six defendants who pleaded guilty evaluated by a German expert on deradicalization and is taking those findings into consideration.
The investigation into terror recruiting in Minnesota is ongoing. The state has the largest concentration of Somali immigrants in the US —numbering 57,000, according to US Census data — which has been a target for recruiters. The FBI has said about a dozen people have left Minnesota to join Islamic terror groups in Syria in recent years. Before that, more than 22 men were recruited to al-Shabab in Somalia since 2007.