Federal prosecutors announced charges Thursday against 14 people, including a former San Diego man, alleging that they helped al-Shabaab, a Somali terrorist organization. The San Diego man, Jehad Serwan Mostafa, 28, was indicted by a local federal grand jury last fall, but the charges were not unsealed until this week.
It’s not the first time links have been examined between San Diego and the Somali terrorist group. We reported about a federal probe into the subject here in March 2009:
The FBI has interviewed dozens of members of San Diego’s Somali community — the fifth-largest in the United States — and at least one Somali American has been subpoenaed to appear before the grand jury within the next two weeks, said Mahir Sherif, a defense lawyer who has consulted with the soon-to-be witness.
“I suspect they’re looking into any kind of organized financing, material support, and/or indoctrination and radicalization of Somali youth,” Sherif said.
FBI officials said during congressional testimony last week that there is no reason to believe Somali jihadists are about to attack in the U.S., but the recruitment of U.S. citizens by terrorist groups is particularly troubling because Americans would presumably have no problem reentering the country.
The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force in San Diego began the investigation after reports that Somali youths were being lured from their homes in Minneapolis, in many cases unbeknownst to their families, to fight in Somalia.
The Union-Tribune’s story on Thursday’s news reported that prosecutors wouldn’t say whether the March 2009 probe led to the indictment announced yesterday. From the U-T:
The three-page indictment gives no details about Mostafa’s activities. Two of the charges, for conspiracy and providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization, allege the offense occurred between March 2008 and June 2009, but no other information is given and (Assistant U.S. Attorney Shane) Harrigan declined to provide more. …
Roughly 20 men from the United States — all but one of Somali descent — left Minnesota from December 2007 through October 2009 to join al-Shabaab, officials have said. Those departures prompted a federal probe in Minnesota. So far 19 people have been charged there. Of the 14 people charged nationwide Thursday, 10 were from Minnesota.
That probe may also have sparked an inquiry in San Diego in March 2009, when federal agents questioned numerous members of the local Somali community. Harrigan declined to say Thursday if those queries led to the indictment of Mostafa, which was filed on Oct. 9.
— KEEGAN KYLE