Archive for May, 2013

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The plot to fund Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan

May 31, 2013

Uzbek national Fazliddin Kurbanov has been arrested in Idaho for providing material support to terrorists and possessing destructive devices such as IED components.  From CNN:

The financial details in the indictment are scant:

… The defendant, Fazliddin Kurbanov, did knowingly and intentionally combine, conspire, confederate, and agree with other co-conspirators, both known and unknown to the Grand Jury, to provide material support and resources, to wit, personnel, including himself, computer software and money, to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan…”

From the wording, it is unclear whether Kurbanov and the conspirators only agreed to provide money, or if money was actually transferred.  The amount of money and the method of transfer is not specified either, but separate terrorism finance cases recently have involved illicit transfers anywhere from $1,500 to $50,000 by foreign nationals in the U.S. to terrorist organizations in their home countries.

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Lashkar-e-Taiba’s upper income recruits

May 30, 2013

Pakistani militants

Far from being impoverished orphans, the young men recruited by Pakistani terrorist organization Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) tend to be among “the best and brightest” of Pakistani society, according to a study released last month by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point based on biographies of 917 LeT members.

The findings severely undercut British Prime Minister David Cameroon’s position that Western development aid to Pakistan improves education and reduces poverty which in turn prevents extremism.

The foreign aid is not preventing terrorist recruitment, some of the aid is stolen by Pakistani elites, and some of the aid is given to terrorist groups through Pakistan’s ISI spy service.  There is no longer any justifiable reason to continue transferring taxpayer money from the West to Pakistan.

From ProPublica:

Terror Group Recruits From Pakistan’s ‘Best and Brightest’

by Sebastian Rotella
ProPublica, April 4, 2013

Imagine a terrorist group that recruits tens of thousands of young men from the same neighborhoods and social networks as the Pakistani military. A group whose well-educated recruits defy the idea that poverty and ignorance breed extremism. A group whose fighters include relatives of a politician, a senior Army officer and a director of Pakistan’s Atomic Energy Commission.

That is the disconcerting reality of Lashkar-e-Taiba, one of the world’s most dangerous militant organizations, according to a study released today by the Combating Terrorism Center at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y. The report helps explain why Pakistan has resisted international pressure to crack down on Lashkar after it killed 166 people in Mumbai — six U.S. citizens included — and came close to sparking conflict between nuclear-armed Pakistan and India.

The findings, which draw on 917 biographies of Lashkar fighters killed in combat, illuminate “Lashkar’s integration into Pakistani society, how embedded they are,” said co-author Don Rassler, the director of a research program at the center that studies primary source materials. “They have become an institution.”

The three-day slaughter in 2008 drew global attention because it targeted Westerners as well as Indians and implicated Pakistan’s spy agency. The Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) continues to protect the masterminds, according to Western and Indian counterterror officials. U.S. prosecutors indicted an ISI major in the deaths of the Americans: He allegedly provided funds, training and direction and served as the handler of David Coleman Headley, an U.S. reconnaissance operative now serving 35 years in a federal prison.

The 56-page West Point report is titled “The Fighters of Lashkar-e-Taiba: Recruitment, Training, Deployment and Death.” Though it refrains from policy suggestions, there are implications for U.S. counterterror strategy. Lashkar’s popularity and clout defy conventional approaches to fighting extremism, said co-author Christine Fair, a Pakistan expert at Georgetown University.

“When you have an organization that enjoys such a degree of open support, there are no options for U.S. policy other than counterintelligence, law enforcement and counter-terrorism targeting,” Fair said in an interview.

Lashkar was founded in 1989 by Hafiz Saeed, its spiritual chief today, and other ideologues. The ISI deployed Lashkar as a proxy force against India, especially in the disputed Kashmir region. Although banned by Pakistan in 2002, the group still functions unmolested, the ISI provides funds, military training and arms, and ISI officers serve as handlers for Lashkar chiefs, according to Western and Indian investigations. The U.S. officially declared Laskhar a terror group in 2001.

The West Point researchers said they used “massive amounts of material that the group produces about itself” to analyze the trajectories of Lashkar fighters who were killed between 1989 and 2008. The researchers translated from Urdu the 917 biographies that appeared in four extremist publications, including one written by mothers of fallen militants.

Recruits often become holy warriors with the help of their families, which admire Lashkar’s military exploits in India and Afghanistan and its nationalism and social service activities at home, the study says. Unlike other terrorist groups, Lashkar does not attack the Pakistani state.

The group’s vast training camps have churned out fighters at an alarming rate. The study gives an estimate of between 100,000 and 300,000 total trainees. By comparison, a U.S. counterterror official told ProPublica he has seen figures as high as 200,000, though he put the number in the tens of thousands.

Most recruits examined in the study joined at about age 17 and died at about 21, generally in India or Afghanistan. Their backgrounds contradict “a lingering belief in the policy community that Islamist terrorists are the product of low or no education or are produced in Pakistan’s madrassas,” the report says.

In fact, the fighters had higher levels of secular education compared to the generally low average for Pakistani men, the report says. Relatively few studied at religious schools known as madrasas. They joined Lashkar — which spews anti-Western, anti-Semitic and anti-Indian rhetoric — because they wanted more meaningful lives, admired its anticorruption image and felt an obligation to help fellow Muslims, the study says.

“These are some of Pakistan’s best and brightest and they are not being used in the labor market, they are being deployed in the militant market,” Fair said. “It’s a myth that poverty and madrasas create terrorism, and that we can buy our way out of it with U.S. aid.”

Lashkar’s publications downplay its longtime links to the security forces, the authors said. But connections emerge nonetheless. Lashkar recruits aggressively in the districts of the Punjab region that produce the bulk of Pakistan’s officer corps — “a dynamic that raises a number of questions about potentially overlapping social networks between the army and (Lashkar),” the report says.

“It looks like based on what we have as if there’s a considerable degree of overlap,” Fair said. “The military and Lashkar are competing for guys with the same skill set.”

At least 18 fallen fighters had immediate family members who served in Pakistan’s armed forces. Although most recruits were working or lower middle-class, some “had connections to elite Pakistani institutions and Pakistani religious leaders and politicians.” The study cites Abdul Qasim Muhammad Asghar, son of the president of the Pakistan Muslim Leagueʹs labor wing in Islamabad and Rawalpindi…

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Word of the week: BSA

May 29, 2013

The Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) is the primary law in the U.S. against money laundering.  Cassara and Jorisch* explain the BSA as follows:

Officially known as the “Currency and Foreign Transactions Reporting Act,” it requires financial institutions to help various government agencies detect and prevent money laundering.  Specifically, the BSA requires banks and other financial institutions to file reports of currency transactions exceeding $10,000, to keep records of cash purchases of negotiable instruments, and to report suspicious activity.

The IRS notes that BSA requirements serve to “detect and deter money laundering whether it is in furtherance of a criminal enterprise, terrorism, tax evasion or other unlawful activity.”

*Cassara, John and Jorisch, Avi.  On the Trail of Terror Finance (Washington, D.C.:  Red Cell Intelligence Group, 2010).

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Dawood henchman oversees illicit sports betting

May 28, 2013

Authorities add spot fixing to list of crimes by international terror financier

The current sports gambling scandal in India over fixed cricket matches may trace back to international terror financier Dawood Ibrahim and his D-Gang syndicate, according to sources in the Delhi police department.

Sunil Dubai, a Dawood lieutenant and bookie kingpin, oversees the spot fixing from Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, but travels frequently to Karachi, Pakistan, and has family in London.

Dawood Ibrahim was the mastermind and financier of the 1993 Mumbai bombings that killed 257 people.

From the sports pages of the Times of India:

Spot-fixing in IPL: Dawood’s man in Dubai mastermind of betting racket

C Unnikrishnan & Raj Shekhar, TNN May 17, 2013

MUMBAI/NEW DELHI: The mastermind of the cricket betting syndicate is said to be a Dubai-based Dawood Ibrahim man named Sunil Ramchandani alias Sunil Dubai while the principal bookie referred to as ‘Jupiter’ in phone intercepts is a person called Chandresh. He is reportedly close to several politicians, builders and police officers.

“The hawala route in the payout of money indicates links to Dawood gang,” said a Delhi Police officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “The increase in the seizure of ‘dabba phones’ – phones on which betting rates are taken from Dubai – in recent days from betting syndicates seem to confirm that Dawood’s men control much of this cash-spinning industry running into thousands of crores.”

While Delhi Police commissioner Neeraj Kumar didn’t elaborate on the Dubai-Karachi connection, terming the link as that of the ‘Mumbai underworld’ whose kingpin lives abroad, sources in the special cell said that a team was probing Dawood’s connection with the bookies and joining the dots using tip-offs gathered.

“We’re trying to figure out whether the Dubai number used by the bookie kingpin actually originated in Dubai or somewhere else. The wires of this operation extend to Karachi, Dubai, Jaipur, Kolkata and Ahmedabad,” said a Delhi cop, adding that the teams are in most of these places for further investigations.

Intelligence sources said Sunil Dubai started his operations in Mumbai about 20 years ago before shifting base to Dubai. “He used to shuttle between Dubai and Mumbai to coordinate operations till a few years ago,” said a senior Mumbai police officer. Mumbai police issued a look-out notice after his name cropped up in betting cases involving a number of bookies. From Dubai, Sunil applied for anticipatory bail in a Mumbai court, but his plea was rejected last month.

Sunil took over the betting business after Sharad Shetty, also a Dawood man, was assassinated by rival gangster Chhota Rajan’s men in Dubai 10 years ago. Sunil’s family is believed to be in London. He frequently travels to Karachi, where Dawood and his right hand man Chhota Shakeel are based. Sources in the police said he heads a business worth over Rs 500 crore spread across Mumbai, Delhi, Dubai and Karachi.

It is learnt that a few years ago, he bought most of an apartment building near Mantralaya, the Maharashtra government headquarters.

“The five-storey building was initially occupied by Indian Navy officials. He bought most of the flats except one owned by the state government. He is trying to capture that too. He intends to redevelop it once he manages to buy the last flat,” said a person with knowledge of the deal.

Several Mumbai bookies owe their allegiance to him. “He decides the betting rate and the others follow it. Cricket fixing cannot happen without his go-ahead,” said sources.

As for Jupiter/Chandresh, sources said he shifted his base to Delhi some time ago after Mumbai police began cracking down on bookies. He had operated from Mumbai along with Ahmedabad-based Naresh Majethia for close to 15 years ago. The police are said to be gathering more information on Chandresh’s operations here.

It all began with the interception of calls between Dubai and Karachi that had alarmed the special cell who mistook them first as “coded exchange between terrorists”. But, further interceptions led to the unraveling of connections between IPL players and bookies.

The cops will now question Ramesh Vyas, a bookie arrested by the Mumbai police on Tuesday, who was the link between Indian and Pakistani ‘bookies’ and had exchanged around 30 calls to Pakistan, an officer said.

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Hamas front company active in Khartoum

May 27, 2013

We’re told periodically that Sudan isn’t really a state sponsor of terrorism.  Sanctions against the country are said to be a mere holdover from years ago when the Sudanese hosted Osama bin Laden in the 1990s—sanctions which have been renewed strictly on the grounds of government negligence in managing “conflict” and “humanitarian access” subsequent and unrelated to bin Laden’s departure.

But the evidence continues to show that if you want to finance terrorism, Sudan is still one of the best places to operate.  Earlier we learned about the presence of and fundraising by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Sudan.  Then we found that Sudan’s janjaweed poach elephants and sell the ivory to fund terrorism.  And never mind that Eritreans are kidnapped for ransom in Sudan, or their organs are sold on the black market with the revenues enriching Hamas.  Now it comes to light that an alleged engineering company operates in the capital of Sudan for the exclusive benefit of Hamas.

Oh, and Saudi Arabia has at least three front companies for Hamas, too.  From the Investigative Project for Terrorism (h/t Sal Imburgia):

Article Alleges Hamas Money Laundering

by IPT News  •  May 16, 2013

Hamas has several business fronts operating in Saudi Arabia and Sudan which launder money for the terrorist group, the Arab News claimed in a report Wednesday.

The report claims “high-level Gulf sources” confirmed a previous story in Kuwait’s al Seyassah about the illicit activity. The Gulf Cooperation Council is expected “to put an end to the illegitimate financial activity Hamas is carrying out, without excluding these authorities arresting and prosecuting the movement’s leadership cadres,” an IPT translation of the Arab News report said.

The story named four specific businesses serving as fronts benefitting Hamas. It did not make clear what crimes generated the money, thus requiring its laundering.

Three of the companies identified are in and around Jeddah; al Sawa’id Technical for Contracting, “Al Afaq for Computer Technology and Amsar for Trade. The fourth, Hassan and Abed International for Roads and Bridges, was described as operating in Sudan’s capital Khartoum…

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Russia says 50 groups in U.S. raise funds for North Caucasus extremists

May 26, 2013

According to the Jamahiriya News Agency, Russian intelligence reveals that 50 organizations, many of which are Islamic charities, are actively soliciting and distributing funds from their headquarters in U.S. to terrorist groups in the North Caucasus—the same region where Tamerlan Tsarnaev journeyed prior to the Boston Marathon bombings.  Islamic Relief, the largest Muslim charity in America, is included on Russia’s list.  Read it all:

…According to the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs, over 60 international extremist organizations, about 100 foreign companies and 10 banking groups participate in providing financial, material and other assistance to the terrorists «touring» the Northern Caucasus. In the U.S. alone, almost 50 organizations are raising funds for the Northern Caucasian extremists. And this is not the entire list of the Chechen terrorists’ accomplices in the U.S.; these organizations began sponsoring the rebels from the moment the bands led by Basayev and Khattab (the latter of which is known to be an emissary of Ben Laden, a staff member of the CIA, and a Canadian citizen who was stripped of his native Jordanian citizenship for his links to American intelligence agencies) invaded the territory of Dagestan.

The following groups are actively raising funds in the U.S.: the Muslim American Bar Association; the Islamic American Center, located in Washington; the Muslim American Council; Islamic Relief/Chechnya appeal, registered with the U.S. Department of State; Islamic City Relief; the Islamic-American Zakat Foundation (president I. Akhmadov); the Islamic Action Center; the Chechen-Ingush Society of America, also known as Chechen relief expenses, with a division called Chechen Relief (president Dr. Mohkammed Musa Shishani); the international Muslim organization Al-Ehsan Charitable Relief Organisation, with its headquarters in Washington; the International Relief Association in Michigan; Islamic Relief Worldwide in California; Mercy International, with its headquarters in Plymouth, Michigan; and the Benevolence International Foundation. In regard to the latter organization, it must be noted that when in January 2003 U.S. intelligence agencies found the head of the foundation, Syrian (or Albanian) American Enaam Arnaut, in the course of investigating sources of financing for Al Qaeda, he admitted that the foundation finances rebels in Chechnya and Bosnia; earlier, in October 2002, U.S. attorney general D. Ashcroft charged him with financing Ben Laden, but when Arnaut stated that the money was going to Chechen terrorists and not Ben Laden, Ashcroft…dropped all charges against him.

The following U.S. organizations also provide various support to Chechen extremists, constantly monitor the situation in Chechnya and conduct political campaigns “in support of the struggling people of Chechnya”: the American Muslim Council; the American Committee for peace in Chechnya; the American Friends Service Committee; and the Islamic Circle of North America.

The role of the organization American Muslim Assistance (AMA) deserves special mention. It is registered with the U.S. State Department, and its main task is «helping our Muslim brothers throughout the world». The director of AMA, Sheikh Hisham Muhammad Kabbani, who is also the chairman of the influential Islamic Supreme Council of America, chairman of the As-Sunna Foundation of America, and the founder and chairman of the Haqqani Islamic Trust for New Muslims, is known as the author of many works on Islam. AMA operates in the Northern Caucasus and conducts active propaganda to discredit the actions of the Russian authorities. AMA often acts under the cover of other Muslim organizations, in particular, the Islamic Supreme Council of America, which unites 15 million Muslims living in the U.S.

Active propaganda and political activity in the interests of Chechen separatists in the U.S. are also conducted by: the online company Amina Network, with an office in Washington; Human Assistance Development International, which has been in existence for 13 years; an Islamic information server for spreading the ideas of Chechen separatism and extremism on the Internet; and the public relations office of Ruder Finn, Inc. The Islamic Charity Foundation and the Council on American-Islamic Relations regularly organize media presentations in support of Chechen extremists, interact on a regular basis with many American analytical centers, and initiate hearings in the U.S. Congress, to which they actively invite consultants, experts and U.S. government advisors…

Islamic Relief USA’s website says that Islamic Relief was one of the first aid agencies in Chechnya in the ‘90s and that it has worked in the North Caucasus since 1995.

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Cigarette smugglers linked to terrorists

May 24, 2013

Sixteen Palestinian immigrants have been arrested for a cigarette smuggling ring, and at least three of the men have ties to terrorists (h/t El Grillo).  Officials are “very seriously concerned about where the profits of this enterprise went,” suggesting that revenues may have been transferred to fund terrorist groups overseas.  The smuggling investigation itself originated from a counter-terror probe into the suspects’ activities.

From New York News 12:

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Front group finance: recommended reading

May 23, 2013
  • Are tea party groups subjected to greater scrutiny than Islamic charities? A nonprofit consultant says yes (h/t creeping)… more>>
  • How Saudi charitable fronts pump millions of dollars via hawala into Kashmir to transform it into a valley of Wahhabism… more>>
  • Islamic charities have exploited America to fund Chechen jihadists since 9/11… more>>
  • No longer confined to the blogosphere, the Associated Press reports on the legal battle between a Christian publisher and a terror-linked Muslim syndicate… more>>
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Word of the week: third party

May 22, 2013

The person making financial transactions for illicit purposes isn’t necessarily the person pulling the strings.  If you work for a money services business, you should try to ascertain if your customer is operating under instructions from a third party.  This guidance comes from Canada’s FinTRAC, but it’s useful information for anybody with know-your-customer responsibilities:

Find out if there is a third party

As a money services business (MSB), you have to find out if your client is acting on behalf of a third party when you:

  • conduct a large cash transaction and you have to keep a record of it
  • have to keep a record about a service agreement

Who is a third party?

A third party is anyone else who gave instructions to your client to request MSB services from you. It is not about who “owns” the money, but rather about who gives the instructions to deal with the money.

How to find out if there is a third party

Ask the individual in front of you if they are acting on someone else’s instructions. If the answer is yes, that someone else is a third party.

Examples of a third party:

  1. Tarek wants to send money to his son Roger in Lebanon. He gives his daughter Tara $13,000 in cash and asks her to go to the MSB to send the money. Tara gives the money to the MSB and requests that a money transfer be made to Roger in Lebanon. Tarek is the third party as he is the one who gave the instructions to Tara to request that a money transfer be made.
  2. Jacques, a financial officer and employee of Voyages Inc. in Canada, goes to the MSB every month to transfer money to their head office in France. Jacques’ employer, Voyages Inc., is the third party as Jacques is acting on his employer’s instructions.

Records to keep on a third party

You have to keep a record for five years after the day you created it, if you:

  • find out that there is a third party
  • suspect that there is a third party

You find out that there is a third party

If you find out that there is a third party involved, you have to keep a record with the following information about the third party:

  • name, address and job or main business
  • if it is an individual, their date of birth
  • if it is a corporation, their corporation number and place of incorporation
  • the nature of the relationship between the third party and:
    • the individual who gave you the cash if you are doing this because of a large cash transaction or
    • the organization entering into a service agreement.

Examples of how to describe the nature of the relationship include that the third party is your client’s accountant, agent, customer, employee, friend, legal counsel or relative.

You suspect that there is a third party

If you are not able to find out that there is a third party, but you suspect that there are instructions from a third party involved, you have to keep a record to indicate the following:

  • why you suspect the individual is acting on a third party’s instructions and in the case of a:
    • large cash transaction, whether or not the individual giving the cash indicated that the transaction was being conducted on behalf of a third party
    • service agreement, whether or not the client indicated that the agreement was being done on behalf of a third party
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Omer Abdi Mohamed gets 12 years in prison

May 21, 2013

Terror recruiter and financier sentenced in Minneapolis

Al-Shabaab has been able to wreak havoc in Somalia because of its combustible mix of money and jihadist ideology.  Unfortunately, some of al-Shabaab’s revenues originated from donations bundled together by terrorist supporters in Minnesota such as Amina Farah Ali and Omer Abdi Mohamed.

Here’s the latest from Minneapolis:

Four men in Minnesota sentenced to prison for aiding Somali rebel group

MINNEAPOLIS | Tue May 14, 2013

(Reuters) – A federal judge sentenced four men to prison on Tuesday for helping recruit young men in Minnesota to travel to Somalia and fight for the militant group al Shabaab.

Investigators believe about 20 young, ethnic Somali men left Minnesota from 2007 to 2009 to go to Somalia to fight for al Shabaab, which the United States designated a terrorist organization.

Three men who cooperated with investigators were each sentenced to three years and a fourth man was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

“These defendants, by providing material support to a designated terrorist organization, broke both the law and the hearts of family members across the Twin Cities,” U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones said in a statement.

Eighteen men were charged after a four-year investigation. Eight were convicted and the rest are thought to be fugitives or to have been killed in Somalia while fighting for al Shabaab.

On Tuesday, Omer Abdi Mohamed, 28, was sentenced to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty in July 2011 to one count of conspiring to provide material support to co-conspirators who intended to murder, kidnap, or maim Ethiopian and Somali government troops.

Mohamed, of Minneapolis, admitted that he helped recruits get plane tickets and helped to raise money for them to travel to Somalia to fight with al Shabaab in 2007.

Three men who cooperated with investigators were each sentenced to three years in prison by Chief Judge Michael Davis in Minneapolis federal court…

How exactly did Mohamed raise the money for the recruits?  From the trial brief:

…The defendant and his conspirators went to local malls and apartment buildings to ask for money, claiming it would be used to build a mosque or to assist with relief efforts in Somalia. In fact, the money was to pay for the airfare and travel expenses of the group of men to join in the conspiracy…

If these Somali fellows had to do all this legwork to finance their travel to Somalia, it makes one wonder how Tamerlan Tsarnaev secured funding to travel to Dagestan.  Public benefits and proceeds from casual drug sales may have been insufficient, and Tsarnaev didn’t have access to community donations in the same way the Minnesota Somalis have had.  Did Tsarnaev’s in-laws unwittingly pay for his trip?

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Terror finance termagant finally sentenced

May 20, 2013

Local Somali activist says financier “deserves the Nobel Prize”

Amina Farah Ali was convicted in 2011 of supporting terrorism by collecting donations and transferring them to al-Shabaab for jihad in Somalia.  Her sentencing took place last week.  Ali could have been sent to prison for 195 years, but the federal judge Michael Davis imposed a 20-year sentence.

Despite Judge Davis’s lenience toward Ali, CAIR is filing a complaint against him over questions he asked her during sentencing (h/t @1389).

The Minneapolis Star Tribune recorded the reaction from the Somali community following the sentence.  Activist Abdinasir Abdi declared “Amina was a good woman, a mother, a teacher, educator, humanitarian worker. I think she deserves the Nobel Prize because she is a great humanitarian.”  Other Somali leaders blamed the situation on U.S. foreign policy, and one woman brandished a sign saying that Ali is her hero:

Ali’s partner in crime, Hawo Mohamed Hassan, was sentenced to 10 years.  The Tribune also has the report:

Two Rochester women get 10, 20 years for aiding Somalia terrorists

Article by: RANDY FURST , Star Tribune

Updated: May 17, 2013

One got 10 years in prison, the other 20 for funneling money to a group fighting in Somalia.

Two Rochester women were sentenced to federal prison Thursday for their roles in funneling money to an organization the U.S. government has called a terrorist group fighting in Somalia.

Hawo Mohamed Hassan, 66, who got 10 years in prison, and Amina Farah Ali, 36, who got 20, were the last of nine people sentenced in federal court in Minneapolis this week.

The group was the first set of defendants sent to prison from Minneapolis in this country’s largest anti-terrorism investigation since Sept. 11, 2001.

U.S. Chief Judge Michael Davis handed down the sentences before a courtroom packed with the defendants’ families and members of the Somali-American community.

The drama capped a federal investigation that lasted more than four years in which U.S. authorities sought to shut down a recruiting effort that lured more than 20 young men to Somalia, several of whom died fighting or in suicide bombings.

The women, both U.S. citizens who came here from Somalia, were convicted in 2011 of conspiring to provide material support to Al-Shabab in fundraising in Rochester that prosecutors have called “a deadly pipeline” of money and fighters from the United State to Somalia.

They have had wide support in the Twin Cities’ Somali-American community, and many in the courtroom were stunned by the sentences, especially the 20-year sentence for Ali.

Hassan Mohamud, a St. Paul imam, said he believes the sentences were too long and that both women should have been released.

“All they did was aid the poor and the orphans,” he said.

But prosecutors said it was clear from the phone conversations they monitored that the women knew they were raising money for Al-Shabab, a group labeled a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department in 2008.

While Ali said she never knew that funds she raised were going to Al-Shabab, Hassan claimed that she came to realize the organization was getting the money and broke with Ali, preferring that the money go to set up a senior health center.

But prosecutor Jeff Paulsen cited telephone wiretaps that he said showed there had been no rift between the two and that Hassan had a financial investment in the health center and planned to continue to work with Ali.

Ali, sentenced first, denied she did anything wrong. She said she had no knowledge that the money she collected went to Al-Shabab.

Asked by Davis what she knew about Al-Qajda, she indicated she knew nothing about it.

Her attorney, Dan Scott, said “she chose the wrong horse,” adding, “She thought she was doing good work. She was wrong.”

Defendants in the Somali cases have argued that Ethiopia invaded Somalia to support a newly created transitional government that lacked support from the Somali people. They have said that their clients backed the resistance to the invasion.

However, prosecutors argued that the transitional government was recognized by foreign nations, so any support for Al-Shabab, which was fighting the invasion, was against U.S. law as well as support for a terrorist group.

Steven Ward, who prosecuted the case, said Ali was heard on a wiretap supporting Al-Shabab, saying she supported a suicide bombing and “let the civilians die”…