A 26-year-old Laurel man was sentenced Monday to seven years in prison after he admitted traveling to Africa to try to join the terrorist group al-Shabab and trashing his home computer so federal investigators could not track him, authorities said.
Craig Baxam was arrested by Kenyan authorities in December 2011, and he soon told FBI agents of his haphazard plan to elude them and connect with al-Shabab because he wanted to live somewhere that rigorously adhered to sharia, or Islamic, law, court papers say. He pleaded guilty to a charge of destroying records that might be used in a terrorism investigation and received the seven-year sentence as part of an agreement with federal prosecutors, authorities said.
Federal investigators have long worked to root out so-called homegrown terror suspects, and Special Agent Stephen E. Vogt, who heads the FBI’s Baltimore division, said in a statement that Baxam’s case “highlights the FBI’s highest investigative priority, the prevention of terrorist acts.” But the resolution of the case seems to demonstrate that Baxam did not precisely fit the bill of a would-be terrorist.
Baxam was not convicted of the initial charge of attempting to provide material support to a terrorist organization, and his attorney, Linda Moreno, said he never advocated specific violence, nor did he procure weapons or attend any terrorist training camps.
A 2005 graduate of Laurel High School who was born in Takoma Park, Baxam had experience in the Army and admitted to investigators that he was willing to commit violence, according to the criminal complaint against him. But he said that he felt offensive jihad was questionable, and his main use for violence would be to defend al-Shabab’s Somali territories from potential invaders, according to the complaint.
Moreno said that the violence he spoke of was only hypothetical, “based on interviews with the FBI where the FBI asked him what if this happened, what if that happened, what if the following.”
“Craig wanted to live and practice his religion in a country where he felt that Muslims were not oppressed,” Moreno said. “This was not a terrorism case.”
Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/crime/seven-year-sentence-for-laurel-man-who-tried-to-join-up-with-al-shabaab-terrorist-group/2014/01/13/539c5d8a-7c80-11e3-95c6-0a7aa80874bc_story.html
MINNEAPOLIS — Wide-ranging sentences handed down in the yearslong federal investigation into recruiting and financing for the terrorist group al-Shabab have kindled a mix of outrage, confusion and relief among members of Minnesota’s large Somali community.
Some say the 10- and 20-year prison sentences for two Minnesota women who sent money to the group were too harsh, especially since two men who traveled to Somalia and joined al-Shabab got three years. The attorney for one man sentenced to 20 years in prison has already filed a notice of appeal; more are expected.
Prosecutors have said the men and women were part of a “deadly pipeline,” sending money and men to al-Shabab, which the U.S. government has designated a terrorist organization for its links to al-Qaida and its tactics that include suicide bombings and assassinations. At least 22 men left Minnesota for Somalia since 2007 in what has been called one of the largest efforts to recruit U.S. fighters for a foreign terrorist organization.
Last week’s sentences are in line with other al-Shabab-related cases. In New Jersey, two men arrested while trying to board flights to Somalia for a jihad were sentenced to 22 and 20 years in prison. A southern California woman received eight years for sending money to Minnesota men in Somalia, while a Missouri man received more than 11 years for funding al-Shabab.
CHICAGO — A 29-year-old Chicago man accused of plotting a suicide bombing overseas and claiming he was inspired by a radical Muslim cleric has agreed to change his plea to guilty, bringing to an end one of the last terrorism trials pending in the city’s federal court.
A lawyer for Shaker Masri — whose plea deal was announced Thursday at a status hearing — told reporters that the agreement hammered out with the U.S. Attorney’s Office was favorable to his client, though he declined to elaborate
Masri, who was born in Alabama and lived abroad before returning to the U.S. at age 18, was arrested in 2010 after the FBI exposed his alleged plot to attend a Somalia training camp to become a suicide bomber for terrorist groups al-Qaida and al-Shabab.
Attorneys left open the possibility that the plea deal could still unravel, but Durkin told U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman he was confident enough to have the Sept. 12 trial date cancelled. Coleman set July 20 as the day for Masri to change his plea.
None of the government attorneys spoke to reporters after the hearing.
News Agencies – October 31, 2011
The al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabab released an audiotape it said was a message from a Somali-American suicide bomber who struck an African Union base in Mogadishu this weekend, killing 10. The English-language message specifically called for terrorist attacks in Canada and said it was a duty for Muslims to fight for Islam, urging listeners not to “just sit around and be a couch potato and just chill all day.”
The message appears to be the latest attempt by Al-Shabab to incite Western youths. Canadian authorities are investigating as many as 20 Canadians who are suspected of having joined the Islamist extremist group.
The Toronto Star – June 8, 2011
A Somali-born Canadian who reportedly led a faction of the outlawed Al Shabab fighters was killed during clashes according to the country’s government-led radio station. A photo of the young man identified as “Abdirahman Canadian” was posted on the Somali website Radio Mogadishu. An army commander with the country’s transitional federal government told reporters a Canadian passport was later found in his pickup truck.
Government troops shot him along with another man when they failed to stop at a government-controlled checkpoint, the radio station reported.
Al Shabab, a radical group fighting to instill an Islamic government in Somalia and has pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda, was designated a terrorist organization in Canada last March. At least 10 Canadian men of Somali origins have disappeared from Toronto and Ottawa since 2009, reportedly to join the group. Mohammed Elmi Ibrahim, one of missing men who was from Scarborough and in his early 20’s, was reportedly killed in battle in March 2010. Fear again struck Toronto’s Somali community this year when news spread about two young women who had also fled to Mogadishu to join the Shabab.
National Post – May 13, 2011
A former Toronto man who is now a commander of the Somali terrorist group Al-Shabab has called for revenge over the killing of Osama bin Laden in an audiotape posted on the Internet. Photos that accompany the recording show Omar Hammami, alias Abu Mansour the American, speaking at an Al-Shabab rally called “We are all Osama” along with other leaders of the al-Qaeda-linked group.The son of a Southern Baptist mother and a Syrian father, Hammami, 27, grew up in Alabama and moved in 2004 to Toronto, where he married a Somali-Canadian and was recruited into Islamist extremist ideology. Since arriving in Somalia, he has posted scores of videos on the Internet urging Western Muslim youths to join Al-Shabab, a Taliban-like armed group trying to impose its version of Islamic law on Somalis.
Officials say up to 20 young Canadians have already travelled to Somalia to join Al Shabab, which Canada outlawed as a terrorist organization last year after it began aggressively recruiting Somali-Canadians.
October 9, 2010
Hassan, a Somali-born Canadian, has spent three sleepless nights and days, waiting for his phone to ring or beep with word that torture victim Ismael Khalif Abdulle had made it out. Somalia has not had a stable government in almost two decades, but the latest fighting has pitted the internationally recognized Transitional Federal Government against Al Shabab, a group of Islamic insurgents aligned with Al Qaeda. Ismael’s story was first told in a January Toronto Star article describing the rise of the Shabab.
Abdirashid Hashi, a former Toronto journalist who had moved back to Somalia to serve as a communications director for President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, had brought Ismael for an interview to the fortified Mogadishu government compound known as Villa Somalia. He wanted to get the story out about just how barbaric the Shabab could be. He believed that message was especially important for the Somali youth of Toronto’s diaspora, since at least five young men had recently left their Canadian homes, seduced by the Shabab’s call to jihad and following the paths of others from the U.S., Europe and Australia.
By Joshua Rhett Miller
A Virginia man accused of trying to join a Somali terror group linked to Al Qaeda will return to court Friday. Zachary Adam Chesser, 20, of Oakton, Va., appeared briefly in U.S. District Court in Virginia on Thursday to face charges that he provided material support to Al-Shabab, the Somalia-based terror organization that claimed responsibility for the bombing that killed 74 people in Uganda during the World Cup earlier this month.
Somali organization Al-Shabab earns money from smuggling qat through the Netherlands, two Swedish former drug smugglers claimed on Dutch Radio 1. Swedish police have suspected Al-Shabab of smuggling qat, a soft drug legal only in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, for some time.
Yesterday marked the 50th anniversary of Somalia’s independence, but there is little to celebrate.
Al-Shabab, which means The Youth, emerged from this bleak chaos in 2006. Human Rights
Watch says Somalis living under Al-Shabab control are subjected to grinding repression. The
impact of the conflict is felt in Canada, home to between 150,000 and 200,000 ethnic Somalis.
While extremist Islam has little appeal to most Somali-Canadians, some support Al-Shabab.
But Ahmed Hussen, president of the Canadian Somali Congress, said while there was
once “quiet support” for Al-Shabab, that has evaporated due to the group’s conduct in Somalia
and the news reports, that young Canadians had been recruited.