Somali with suspected terrorism ties pleads guilty
My San Antonio
Thursday, December 06, 2012
By Guillermo Contreras
A Somali man with suspected terrorism ties pleaded guilty Wednesday to lying to an immigration judge in a failed bid to get asylum, and to FBI agents investigating his links to terrorist groups.
Abdullah Omar Fidse surprised prosecutors Wednesday when his lawyer announced that he wanted to plead guilty to two charges of making false statements.
His hearing before Chief U.S. District Judge Fred Biery was initially meant to take up a motion to dismiss an indictment that could have left him facing more than 30 years in prison. With his guilty plea, he now faces up to 10 years.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Roomberg told the judge that the government is prepared to offer evidence in four other counts against Fidse, including obstruction of justice, which Fidse is trying to convince Biery to dismiss.
Fidse and Deka Abdalla Sheikh were detained at the Hidalgo port of entry in January 2008. Neither had identification, but both claimed persecution in their home country and sought asylum. Sheikh eventually got it, was granted temporary permanent residence and has been living in Madison, Wis.
Fidse was held as federal authorities investigated him, and he remains jailed after the couple was indicted in May 2011.
At a hearing in September, Sheikh pleaded guilty to conspiracy to make false statements, admitting Fidse “coached” her on how to respond to immigration officials' questions during his immigration court hearings.
The two rehearsed their responses, which they knew to be false, via phone. They even created hand signals to secretly communicate with each other during court testimony.
Following their rehearsed lines, the defendants each told authorities Fidse fled Mogadishu, Somalia in 2008 after his father was killed by Islamist militants and that they had first met in Ethiopia.
But the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force says Fidse's father was not killed by al-Qaida or any of its Somali franchises and that Fidse and Sheikh, who had known each other since childhood, eventually married and lived together for three years.
Fidse was living in Nairobi, Kenya, not Somalia, at the time he claimed his father was killed, officials said. And, Fidse's father died of natural causes.
At a hearing last year, FBI special agent Mark Wagoner testified Fidse was secretly recorded saying he had been a cook for Osama bin Laden, and that he was “in tears” after a U.S. airstrike in Somalia in 2008 killed Aden Ayro, head of the extreme Islamic group al-Shabaab.
Fidse “spoke about jihad, ” Wagoner said. “He also recited the Koran ... phrases like ‘Gather your horses and weapons and terrorize the infidels.'”
Court records also said an undercover source taped Fidse in 2009 claiming he bought a $100,000 armed battle vehicle that later was destroyed during fighting. Neither prosecutors nor court documents have specified who was involved in the fighting using the vehicle or where it took place.
The feds have yet to fully publicly explain Fidse's alleged terrorism links – several pleadings remain sealed – as they have released details necessary only to prove that he lied to immigration court and the FBI firstname.lastname@example.org