A 23-year-old woman admitted Thursday that she lied to a grand
jury investigating the long-running case of young men who left Minnesota
to join a terrorist group in Somalia.
Saynab Hussein pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in
Minneapolis to one count of perjury. She admitted that in June 2009 she
lied when she told a grand jury she did not know anyone who raised money
for the travelers, when she actually helped raise money herself.
Hussein, who is pregnant and studying nursing, faces a maximum
sentence of five years in prison. A sentencing date has not been set.
Hussein was charged Wednesday, making her the 21st person to be
charged in the government's investigation into efforts to recruit
fighters and raise money for al-Shabaab, an al-Qaida-linked group at the
heart of much of the violence in Somalia in recent years.
Since late 2007, at least 22 young men have left Minnesota to
join the terrorist group, which at the time was fighting Ethiopians who
were assisting Somalia's former government.
Some of these Minnesota men have died, some remain at large and
others were among those prosecuted in what the FBI has said is one of
the largest efforts to recruit U.S. fighters to a foreign terrorist
The investigation began in fall 2008. That October, Shirwa Ahmed
of Minneapolis detonated a bomb in Somalia. Authorities said he was the
first known U.S. citizen to carry out a suicide bombing, and they
believed he was radicalized in Minnesota.
The following month, the case became public when families of some of the travelers came forward to say their sons were missing.
Hussein was among several people called to testify before a grand
jury in the months that followed. Prosecutors have said in the cases of
other defendants that the investigation was fast-moving at the time, as
authorities were trying to make sense of what was going on and stop
other men from leaving Minnesota.
Hussein, who has permanent resident status in the U.S., remained free on bond.
Her attorney, John Lundquist, said in a statement that Hussein was 19 years old when she appeared before the grand jury.
"Telling an untruth is totally out of character for her, but she was young, naive and terrified," he said. "She made a mistake."
and deeply regrets it," he said.