A Canadian who left Toronto in 2000 to join Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda was sentenced to 7½ years imprisonment yesterday after admitting he had trained with and helped finance the terrorist group. Although his lawyers described Mohamed Abdullah Warsame as simply “a naive, near-sighted and overweight idealist” who became deeply religious while living in Toronto and travelled to Afghanistan in search of an “Islamic utopia,” prosecutors in Minneapolis argued the 35-year-old Somali, who came to Canada as a refugee in 1989, was devoted to the al-Qaeda cause.
Warsame could be released in less than a year and deported to Canada; he has been in custody since his 2003 arrest and the judge gave him credit for the time he has already served. Warsame pleaded guilty in May to a single count of providing material support to al-Qaeda. In exchange, federal prosecutors dropped three counts of making false statements to the FBI.
Concerns about racial profiling and other questionable tactics used to investigate the possible terrorist recruitment of Somalis living in the United States are prompting some Muslim leaders in Saint Louis and elsewhere to limit their cooperation with the FBI.
Federal agents are intensifying their efforts to make connections and conduct investigations within the Somali community across the US, as concerns grow that some are being recruited to radicalization and association with al-Qaeda affiliated terrorists. About two dozen teenagers and young men have disappeared from the Minneapolis area, and returned to the Horn of Africa over the past two years, according to the FBI. Some critics say that what the FBI calls community outreach to bridge closer ties to US-Somali communities, actually involved the use of coercion, threats, and intimidation. “The Somali Muslim community in particular feels they are under siege by law enforcement,” said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
The disappearances of young Somali men from Minneapolis have resulted in numerous other students being questioned by the FBI. Federal agents have been visiting local high schools, colleges and universities for information about the missing Somali men. Additionally, CAIR is calling on colleges to provide more legal help for students, as many have been approached by investigators just walking to class or the library, or receiving phone calls from investigators. Several students report receiving knocks at the door by investigators seeking information about local mosque activity and leaders, and information concerning the worshipping activity of several persons. Finding a lawyer has been a challenging experience for students seeking legal backing; CAIR cited that all of their lawyers were busy, and university legal services have not followed up on advice.
Muslim cabdrivers at Minnesota’s biggest airport will face new penalties, including a two-year revocation of their taxi permits, if they refuse to give rides to travelers carrying liquor or accompanied by dogs, the board overseeing operations ruled Monday. The Metropolitan Airports Commission, which was responding to complaints about the liquor issue, voted unanimously to impose the penalties, which take effect in May. A large number of taxi drivers in the area of the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport are Muslim Somali immigrants. Many say they believe that the faith’s ban on alcohol consumption includes transporting anyone who carries it. Some also have refused to transport dogs, both pets and guide dogs, saying that they are unclean. The rules cover any driver who refuses a ride for unwarranted reasons. Under the new regulations, a first offense would result in a 30-day cab license suspension. A second offense would mean a two-year taxi license revocation. The current penalty requires only that drivers who refuse a fare go to the end of the taxi queue, which costs them time and money.
On the campaign trail in his urban Minneapolis district, Ellison, 43, talked little about his religious background, focusing instead on his call for an immediate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and his support for single-payer health care. He broke from more conservative Muslims by favoring gay rights and abortion rights.