A jury heard from family members of al-Shabab fighters Wednesday in the trial of a man accused of helping Minneapolis men return to their native Somalia to fight with the terrorist organization.
The government spent Wednesday building the case that the men who left for Somalia didn’t have ample resources to make the trip on their own. It alleges Mahamud Said Omar organized and helped pay for the men to go to Somalia to fight.
The court heard emotional testimony from family members of three men who were allegedly recruited to fight in Somalia.
All three said they didn’t know of the men’s plans until after they were in Somalia.
A mother of one of the men gave tearful testimony, pulling her head away when the prosecution showed a picture of her son dead with a bullet hole in his head.
It was Jamal Aweys Sheikh Bana, who left for Somalia in the same cluster of November 2008 days as when two University of Minnesota students left. These three and six others are alleged to have gotten support from the defendant Omar.
The mother, Abayte Ahmed, and her seven children left Somalia when Bana was about a year old. They never returned, she said, and Jamal didn’t have friends or family there.
She said she didn’t think her son would’ve booked the travel or survived in Somalia without help.
Omar, 46, says he’s innocent, and his defense team will argue he isn’t capable of organizing or funding the men’s involvement in al-Shabab.
He faces five federal counts, including providing support to a terrorist organization. He’s the first of 18 men charged in this investigation to appear in court. The jury and the public will for the first time hear personal accounts of the recruitment of more than 20 men to leave Minneapolis for Somalia.
The jury also heard from the brother of one of the men that left in November 2008.
Yonis Abdi, brother of Abdikadir Ali Abdi, said he didn’t know his brother was traveling to Africa, and when he found out several days later, he reported it to Hopkins police.
When asked by the defense, Abdi said he’d never seen his brother with Omar.
The sister of the first-known American suicide bomber and one of the original men to leave Minneapolis, Shirwa Mohamud Ahmed, also took the stand.
Hibo Ahmed said she spoke to her brother on the phone shortly before his death.
“He didn’t sound right,” she told the court through an interpreter.
She said she later learned in a phone call that her brother had died.
A representative from the United Nations also testified for the government Wednesday about the political climate of Somalia.
The trial will resume Thursday and is expected to last up to four weeks.
The jury is down to 15 members, 10 women and five men, after U.S. District Court Judge Michael Davis dismissed a male juror Wednesday morning.
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