Mike Carter and Ian Ith, Seattle Times, July 16, 2010
A Seattle man has pleaded guilty in Minnesota to terrorism-related charges in connection with the disappearances of dozens of U.S. Somali youths, some of whom turned up fighting with suspected terrorists in Somalia and at least one of whom became a suicide bomber, according to court documents and interviews.
Court records show Abdifatah Yusuf Isse, 25, a 2002 Roosevelt High School graduate and a former economics student at Eastern Washington University, traveled to Somalia to train with Al-Shabaab, a Somalia-based radical Islamist group that last year was designated by the U.S. State Department as a foreign terrorist organization.
His court-appointed attorney said Isse was likely being recruited as a possible suicide bomber.
He pleaded guilty to a single count of providing material support to terrorists–which carries a possible 10-year prison sentence–and has been cooperating with federal investigators in what the FBI has said in an ongoing investigation.
His mother, in an interview earlier this week, said Isse was a “good boy” who fell in with the wrong crowd while in Minneapolis.
Isse and another man, Salah Ahmed, were named in an indictment unsealed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis, part of what the FBI has said is a widespread and ongoing investigation into alleged terrorist recruitment among Somalis living in the U.S., including Seattle.
Investigators say as many as 20 young Somali men from the Twin Cities area have disappeared in the past two years, and at least three of them have turned up dead in Somalia. They include Shirwa Ahmed, an American who blew himself up in a suicide bombing against U.N. and Ethiopian forces last October.
Federal prosecutors say Isse went to Somalia with another man in December 2007, that he stayed in Al-Shabaab safe houses, was given an AK-47 and helped construct an Al-Shabaab training camp.
After a couple of weeks, however, he decided not to stay and he and another Minnesota man left the camp. Isse stayed in Somalia to visit relatives. He was arrested at Sea-Tac Airport in March when he returned.