MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) – A federal judge in Minnesota ordered on Thursday that a Somali-American man remain in custody pending trial on charges of conspiring to support Islamic State and lying to federal agents.
Mohamed Farah, 21, who was born in Minneapolis and was a full-time college student before his arrest in April, was one of six men charged as a group in April with conspiring to support Islamic State militants.
U.S. District Judge Michael Davis ruled that Farah was a flight risk and danger to the community, despite the defense’s contention he had no criminal record or history of violence and that the case against him was weak.
Farah, whose brother Adnan Farah is among the defendants previously ordered held until trial, tried twice to leave the United States to join Islamic State militants in Syria and told a federal informant he would attack agents if cornered, prosecutors said.
In November, Farah and three other men went to New York from Minneapolis by bus, but were stopped from taking international flights and returned to Minnesota, according to prosecutors.
Farah and co-defendant Abdurahman Yasin Daud, 21, were arrested in April after driving to California in an attempt to go to Mexico and make their way to Syria, while four others were arrested in Minnesota, prosecutors said.
Davis ordered Daud held until trial at a detention hearing in May. Zacharia Yusuf Abdurahman, 19, Farah’s brother Adnan, 19, Hanad Mustafe Musse, 19, and Guled Ali Omar, 20, were arrested in Minnesota and ordered held after separate hearings.
All six are friends or relatives with connections to other men who have tried or succeeded in going overseas to join Islamic State or al Shabaab, a militant group based in Somalia.
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“Unlike the majority of crimes, in which flight is a means to avoid the consequences of one’s criminal behavior, in this case flight—flight to Syria to join ISIL—is itself the crime, as is violence,” prosecutors said in the brief. Prosecutors said pretrial release under his family’s supervision would be irresponsible and “ineffective in ensuring the safety of the community or his future appearance in court, because Defendant’s family was aware of his impending travel and did nothing to stop him.”
Mr. Farah allegedly said to a government informant that his mother and others knew of his plan to join Islamic State. “She knows where I’m going, bro, that’s the thing…” he said of his mother, according to federal prosecutors.
The young man also threatened to commit violence locally if he were unable to travel to Syria, according to the brief. Mr. Farah said, “if his back is put ‘against the wall,’ he will kill the federal agents investigating his case,” according to the brief.
Prosecutors allege that Mohamed Farah has plotted to travel to Syria since at least March 2014, and that he made two previous, failed attempts to leave the country to join Islamic State. He and a handful of other young men were arrested in April as they all tried to leave the country at roughly the same time after conspiring together to do so, according to authorities. The men all await trial in federal court on similar charges.
In November, Mr. Farah tried to travel to Syria, but was stopped and questioned by federal agents, according to prosecutors. He lied to agents saying he had planned on vacationing in Bulgaria for two days, according to the brief.
Mr. Farah was most recently arrested April 19 in San Diego as he allegedly tried to get a fake passport, travel to Mexico and then on to Syria.
Oral arguments in the case are slated for July 28.
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