A federal court in Minneapolis handed down prison sentences to a group of Somali friends, ranging from 20 to 22 years old, for their attempt to join the Islamic State overseas.
“Hamza Ahmed, 21, was sentenced Tuesday to 15 years in prison and 23 years of supervised release for charges connected to a plot to join ISIS. Another conspirator in the case, Hanad Musse, also 21, was sentenced to 10 years in prison, with 20 years of supervised release,” CBS News reports.
The third defendant, Adnan Farah, also received a ten-year sentence.
Ahmed, who infamously used his federal student loan money to finance a trip to Syria, apologized in court for lying to his family, and told U.S. District Judge Michael Davis: “I am a terrorist, your honor.”
He expressed gratitude for his arrest by federal agents as he tried to board a flight from JFK airport in 2014, saying it saved his life.
“I want you to understand I am not completely changed. I’m in the process, but nobody changes overnight. I’m trying every day. I want to reach that point,” Ahmed said.
“I refuse for this to be my legacy. I will come back and I will help my community,” he promised.
“I was reckless and selfish. I would tell young ones to stay away from terrorism. Don’t make the mistake I made. I am sorry,” said Musse.
Local CBS affiliate WCCO reports there were “signs of obvious tensions at the courthouse,” with the judge reminding onlookers that “anyone threatening anyone at the courthouse could face arrest.”
Adnan Farah’s mother thanked the judge for giving her son a relatively “low sentence,” but she had a rougher time at the courthouse the following day, as Judge Davis sentenced Adnan’s brother Mohammed, 22, to 30 years in prison for his role in the ISIS conspiracy.
Another defendant, 22-year-old Abdirahman Daud, also received a 30-year sentence. The last man in the terrorist cell, Guled Omar, could be looking at a 40-year sentence.
MPR News quotes at length from Judge Davis’s comments at the sentencing:
I have traveled the world trying to figure out what to do with this jihadist behavior. There’s nothing in our criminal justice system that can even come close to try to rehabilitate someone who has extreme jihadist ideology… Terrorists and their supporters should be incapacitated for a long period of time.
This community needs to understand there is a jihadist cell in this community. Its tentacles spread out. Young people went to Syria and died. You might want to publicize these are just young kids that are misguided. This court is thankful there was a trial so all the evidence could come out… The lies you did should be published so there’s no doubt of what’s happening here.
MPR News notes that Davis “appeared to grow exasperated with Farah” during the hearing because he was the only one of the defendants who didn’t admit to being a terrorist.
“The actions I have done are what a terrorist would do, but I feel like I’m not, your honor. I’m not a terrorist,” Farah said.
Davis responded by listing those “actions a terrorist would do,” which included lying to a grand jury, lying to his family, lying to FBI agents, admitting to an informant that he was willing to kill federal agents, attempting to join ISIS in the Middle East twice, and laughing out loud while he watched the Islamic State’s videotaped murder by immolation of a captured Jordanian pilot.
Farah’s lawyer, Murad Mohammed, offered a decidedly non-comforting defense of the young Somalis’ actions, which he described as “braggadocious behavior” typical of young Muslim men interested in “one-upping each other in their level of religiosity,” which led them to “latch on to this concept of jihad.”
Farah himself described his decision to join the Islamic State “caliphate” more simply: “I still felt incomplete, that I was lacking something. I didn’t have a purpose… I thought that was the place intended for me. I found a solution for all my problems, a place to go, with a righteous cause.”