Thursday, October 18, 2012
Mahamud Said Omar found guilty of conspiring to help a terrorist group
Jurors in Minneapolis found Mahamud Said Omar guilty Thursday of conspiring to help a terrorist group to recruit young Minnesota men for a holy war aimed at toppling the government of their native Somalia and imposing a harsh form of Islamic rule across the Horn of Africa.
Omar, 46, of Minneapolis, was found guilty on all five counts and faces up to life in prison.
The trial began Oct. 1 and ended after 10 days of testimony from government witnesses that included three former Al-Shabab recruits who pleaded guilty in the case and cooperated with the government in hopes of a lighter sentence. Family members of some of the 20 or more Minnesota recruits also testified, including the mother of a 19-year-old Twin Cities man who died in Somalia, and the sister of the first known American suicide bomber.
Omar's defense team did not call any witnesses.
The jury of eight women and four men saw two Al-Shabab propaganda videos. One showed some of the Minnesota men at a training camp learning to use AK-47 assault rifles, belt-fed machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. The other showed an ambush on Ethiopian troops who'd been asked by the Transitional National Government to help stabilize the country after more than two decades of civil war.
But the most damning evidence came from Omar himself, as reported by an FBI agent who interviewed him in jail in the Netherlands.
For much of the trial Omar had seemed to play a bit part in the case, as federal prosecutors presented jurors the results of a worldwide investigation into the disappearance of more than 20 Minnesota men, some of whom fought or died for a terrorist group in their native Somalia.
But in the final days, prosecutors focused on Omar, a part-time janitor at the Abubakar As-Saddique Islamic Center in Minneapolis when the alleged conspiracy took off in 2007.