The Justice Department on Tuesday announced the arrest of three Lansing, Michigan, residents who are charged with conspiracy to provide material support to the Islamic State.
The three suspects are naturalized U.S. citizens from Kenya who pledged allegiance to ISIS on video. One of the men was on his way to Somalia when he was arrested, allegedly with the goal of becoming a trained ISIS fighter.
The three conspirators named in the indictment are Muse Abdikadir Muse, 23 (who also goes by the name “Muse Muse” and is referred to as simply “Muse” in the affidavit); Mohamud Abdikadir Muse, 20; and Mohamed Salat Maji, 26. Mohamud is the younger brother of Muse Muse. The trio used some other Arabic aliases when communicating online.
Muse Abdikadir Muse was arrested at Gerald R. Ford Airport in Grand Rapids as he attempted to depart on a series of flights that would have ended in Mogadishu, Somalia. The other two defendants were arrested soon afterward.
The affidavit described how the other two suspects allegedly helped Muse obtain his ticket and drove him to the airport, knowing he was on his way to join the Islamic State. All three recorded videos pledging their allegiance to ISIS, making it clear they were willing to kill infidels, and discussing the possibility of carrying out a “martyrdom operation” in the United States if they could not serve ISIS overseas.
The trio caught the FBI’s attention in the spring of 2016 when Muse began posting extremist information on Facebook. The FBI contacted him in the guise of an ISIS recruiter and soon determined he was saving up his money for a ticket to Syria and “planned to die with a gun in his hand fighting for ISIS.”
The jihad-laced Facebook page was shut down in July 2017, but Muse quickly established another account and began posting more “pro-ISIS and violent extremist propaganda.” The same undercover FBI agent re-established contact with him and learned he was still determined to join the Islamic State in Syria.
Haji also allegedly ran a Facebook page that supported ISIS and made contact with Muse online in early 2017. They had some charming conversations about their admiration for the Islamic State and its videotaped executions:
On or about January 19, 2017, HAJI wrote to MUSE asking for additional ISIS videos. HAJI went on to write that he liked how ISIS burned people, “I love it man.”
On or about January 20, 2017, HAJI wrote to MUSE, “Haha he but that guy who was threaten he put put fuel on That dude while his burning that was funny dude.”
Muse’s little brother Mohamud also got into the act with his own Facebook page. Soon they were discussing the Islamic State’s presence in Somalia and planning a “hijra” (pilgrimage) to hook up with ISIS fighters there, formally pledging their allegiance to the terror state in a ritual called “bayah.” They also gushed with admiration after the truck jihad attack in Tribeca in October 2017, describing it as a sign of “real civil war” and a wake-up call for militant Muslims.
Haji sent Muse a photo of a slaughtered goat and said he would like to butcher infidels the same way as part of his “jihad training.”
Soon they were discussing the possibility of carrying out their own truck or car jihad attack in the United States and assuring each other they were all ready to die for Allah.
“I want to kill one, inshallah,” Haji told Mohamud in 2018. “My days are coming. I want a lot of this kuffar dead.”
“Same here, akhi,” Muse replied. Inshallah means “if Allah wills it,” kuffar is a derogatory term for non-Muslims, and akhi means “brother.”
Sensing the shift in their ambitions from Syria to Somalia, the FBI adroitly introduced a new undercover operative who pretended to be an ISIS recruiter from Somalia and another who posed as a black Muslim from Chicago interested in supporting the Islamic State, according to the affidavit.
“Brother, I just want Islam to win,” Muse told them. “I want to kill kuffar.”
Muse explained his plan to save up for a ticket to Somalia, a journey his younger brother apparently could not make because he lacked a valid U.S. passport, although Muse thought Mohamud and Hajir were certain to follow him as quickly as they could. To that end, Mohamud applied to the U.S. State Department for another passport, claiming he threw his old one out by mistake. It worked – he was issued a new passport good until January 2029.
Muse also talked about recruiting other Muslims in the United States to join their jihad cell. The FBI agents pretended to funnel money from ISIS to Muse so he could buy his plane ticket, which cost about $1,700.
Muse mentioned at one point that his wife was aware of his terrorist ambitions and was willing to relocate to the Islamic State with him. Later he said his wife was pregnant and he would delay his pilgrimage to the Islamic State until she gave birth.
“I know that if I leave they won’t stay behind,” he told one of the FBI operatives in November of his brother and Haji. “I’ve come this far. I’m not letting the kuffar stop me now, wallahi.” Wallahi means “I swear to Allah.”
“I never go to jail, it’s either hijrah or shahada,” he vowed – essentially committing to either join ISIS in Somalia or die in a suicide attack in the United States. As it turned out, he is indeed headed for jail for up to 20 years if convicted.