Zacharia Yusuf Abdurahman, 20, of Columbia Heights, Minnesota, pleaded guilty to conspiring with at least eight other individuals to travel to Syria in an effort to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a designated foreign terrorist organization.
Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin, U.S. Attorney Andrew M. Luger of the District of Minnesota and Special Agent in Charge Richard T. Thornton of the FBI’s Minneapolis Division made the announcement.
“Zacharia Yusuf Abdurahman conspired to provide material support to ISIL and attempted to travel to Syria to join their ranks overseas,” said Assistant Attorney General Carlin. “Counterterrorism is the National Security Division’s highest priority, and we remain committed to stemming the flow of foreign fighters abroad and bringing to justice those who attempt to provide material support to terrorists.”
“Zacharia Abdurahman is the third co-conspirator to plead guilty and admit in detail his longstanding efforts to join ISIL,” said U.S. Attorney Luger. “Despite being stopped by federal agents on his first attempt, Abdurahman continued to seek ways to join this terrorist group. We hope that Abdurahman’s guilty plea today, and those of Hanad Musse and Abdullahi Yusuf before him, deter others from planning to join ISIL.”
“The FBI will continue to fight terrorism recruitment and material support with every available resource,” said Special Agent in Charge Thornton. “We stand alongside our Somali community partners in Minnesota to prevent terror groups from targeting their youth.”
Abdurahman was initially charged by criminal complaint on April 20, 2015, and was subsequently indicted on May 19, 2015. Abdurahman pleaded guilty today before Senior U.S. District Judge Michael Davis of the District of Minnesota.
As admitted by the defendant in his guilty plea, between March and June 2014, Abdurahman became aware of individuals in the United States and abroad who had traveled or desired to travel overseas to join ISIL. Abdurahman joined this group of aspiring travelers with the understanding that ISIL was a designated foreign terrorist organization that engaged in terrorism and terrorist activity. The defendant participated in several meetings throughout 2014 in which he and his co-conspirators discussed traveling to Syria to join ISIL, including how they would pay for such travel, what routes they could take from Minnesota to Syria to best elude law enforcement and the feasibility of using fraudulent travel documents to travel to Syria.
As admitted by the defendant in his guilty plea, by June 2014, Abdurahman knew that co-conspirator Abdi Nur had successfully traveled to Syria and that co-conspirator Abdullahi Yusuf had attempted to travel to Syria but had been stopped by law enforcement at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport. Nevertheless, Abdurahman continued to make preparations to travel to Syria to join ISIL.
As admitted by the defendant in his guilty plea, on Nov. 6, 2014, Abdurahman and co-conspirators Mohamed Farah, Hamza Ahmed and Hanad Musse purchased bus tickets from Minneapolis to New York City, where they met at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK). While at JFK, Abdurahman purchased a round-trip ticket to Athens, Greece, which he planned to use as a transit point from which to travel to Syria. After being prevented by federal agents from boarding his flight, Abdurahman lied to federal agents about the true nature of his travel.
As admitted by the defendant in his guilty plea, after their failed November 2014 attempt to fly overseas, Abdurahman and co-conspirators Farah, Musse and Ahmed met to discuss and coordinate false responses to anticipated law enforcement questions in an effort to conceal their intention to travel to Syria to join ISIL.
As admitted by the defendant in his guilty plea, he continued to meet with his co-conspirators throughout the winter and spring of 2015 to discuss and plan another attempt to travel to Syria to join ISIL. As a result of some of those meetings, Abdurahman willingly agreed to participate in a scheme to obtain false passports, travel from Minnesota to Mexico, and fly overseas to join ISIL using those false passports. On April 1, 2015, Abdurahman provided a passport photo of himself to an individual he believed would be traveling with him. Unbeknownst to the defendant, the individual was a cooperating human source (CHS). On April 3, 2015, Abdurahman asked the CHS for the return of his passport photograph, fearing the number of co-conspirators involved in the plot to leave the United States for Syria increased the probability of getting caught by law enforcement. However, Abdurahman admits that he did not withdraw from the conspiracy to provide material support to ISIL when he sought return of the passport photo. Rather, Abdurahman was attempting to preserve the viability of his and his co-conspirators’ future travel to Syria. Abdurahman on April 3, 2015, further provided $100 in U.S. currency to the CHS as a down payment for co-defendant Farah’s false passport which the defendant knew would be used by Farah to attempt to travel to Syria to join ISIL.
This case is the result of an investigation conducted by the FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Andrew R. Winter and John Docherty with assistance provided by the National Security Division's Counterterrorism Section.