Minnesota Man Who Wanted to Join ISIS Once Worked as Baggage Handler at Airport

Associated Press, December 22, 2015

A Minnesota man who faces terrorism-related charges once boasted that he was capable of building rockets that could threaten planes landing at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, and also once worked at the airport as a baggage handler, an FBI agent testified Tuesday.

FBI Special Agent Daniel Higgins spoke at a hearing for Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame, 20, of Eagan. Warsame was the 10th young man from Minnesota’s Somali community to be charged since April with terrorism-related counts accusing them of plotting to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State group. He was arrested and charged Dec. 9 with one count of conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization and one count of providing such support.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Becky Thorson ruled there was probable cause to support the charges, and that Warsame should not be released because he’s a flight risk and danger to the community. The case now goes to a grand jury where prosecutors will seek an indictment so they can proceed to trial.

Three of the other defendants have pleaded guilty, while five are scheduled to go on trial in May. The FBI says one is in Syria.

Higgins’ testimony added details that weren’t in the criminal complaint against Warsame, which included an affidavit from another FBI agent, Vadym Vinetsky, who wrote that Warsame was appointed “emir,” or leader of the local group, by Guled Ali Omar, who was planning to leave for Syria but was thwarted and is now among those awaiting trial.

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Recordings secretly made by an FBI informant included a conversation Warsame had with Omar about weapons, Higgins said. They discussed a propaganda video about a “tank hunter” who used rocket-propelled grenades. “The defendant indicated he would like to take such a role and said he quote, loved RPGs,” he testified.

In another conversation recorded by the informant, while walking around Lake Nokomis, which is under one of the airport’s main flight paths, Warsame said he could build “homemade rockets” that could reach 2,000 feet, Higgins testified. He suggested that was enough to hit a descending plane.

And from April to August of 2014, Warsame worked as a baggage handler at the airport “with access to the airplanes,” Higgins testified.

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