War on Terrorism

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Two Women Found Guilty of Providing Material Support to Terrorists



ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Two women were convicted today of terrorism crimes related to their material support of al-Shabaab, a designated foreign terrorist organization.

Muna Osman Jama, 36, of Reston, and Hinda Osman Dhirane, 46, of Kent, Washington, were found guilty of conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, and providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization after a bench trial in front of U.S. District Judge Anthony J. Trenga.

“Providing material support to foreign terrorist organizations is a very serious crime,” said Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “These women funneled money to a terrorist organization which was conducting a violent insurgency campaign in Somalia.  National security is the top priority in this office and we will continue to work closely with our law enforcement partners to investigate and prosecute those who provide material support to terrorists.”

“In addition to money they transferred in direct support of al-Shabaab, these subjects recruited, solicited, and advised an online group located in multiple countries as to how and where to transfer funds to this terrorist organization,” said Paul M. Abbate, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office. “In coordination of the group, these subjects would then track and facilitate donations to ensure the money was received by their co-conspirators located in Nairobi and Somaliland. Today's guilty verdicts send a message that facilitation of financial support to a designated terrorist organization equates to terrorist activity itself.”

According to court records and evidence presented at trial, Jama and Dhirane sent money to financiers of al-Shabaab in Somalia and Kenya, which they referred to respectively as the “Hargeisa side” and the “Nairobi side.”  The defendants also organized what was called a “Group of Fifteen,” which included women from Somalia, Kenya, Egypt, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and Canada, as well as Minneapolis, Minnesota.  The “Group of Fifteen” met regularly in a private chatroom that Jama established to organize and track monthly payment of money to the “Hargeisa side,” which was used to finance al-Shabaab military operations in the Golis Mountains in northern Somalia, and the “Nairobi side,” which was used to fund two al-Shabaab safehouses.  One of the safehouses was used by al-Shabaab to store weapons and to prepare for attacks.  The other was used to treat al-Shabaab fighters who had been wounded in battle.

A substantial part of the government’s case consisted of recorded telephone calls and other communications among the “Group of Fifteen.”  These recordings demonstrated that the women had close connections with al-Shabaab leadership and were privy to non-public, inside information concerning al-Shabaab activities.  Jama and Dhirane were recorded as they laughed as the carnage at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi was still taking place.  Dhirane and co-conspirator were also recorded as they laughed at the Boston Marathon Bombing before it became known who committed the attack.

Jama and Dhirane each face a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison when sentenced on January 19, 2017.  The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Paul M. Abbate, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office; and Jay S. Tabb, Jr., Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Seattle Field Office, made the announcement after the verdict was announced.  Assistant U.S. Attorney James P. Gillis and Trial Attorney Danya E. Atiyeh of the Counterterrorism Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division are prosecuting the case.  The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle also provided assistance.

This case was investigated by the FBI’s Washington, D.C. and Seattle Field Offices.  The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs also played an essential role in coordinating the arrests and searches with foreign authorities.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Wisconsin Man Pleads Guilty to Attempting to Provide Material Support to ISIL



Joshua Van Haften, 34, of Madison, Wisconsin, pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support and resources, namely himself as personnel, to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a designated foreign terrorist organization.

The announcement was made by Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Mary B. McCord and U.S. Attorney John W. Vaudreuil for the Western District of Wisconsin.

Van Haften admitted that in 2014, he attempted to provide material support to ISIL, knowing that the organization was a designated terrorist organization that has engaged and engages in terrorism.

According to the government’s evidence, Van Haften traveled to Turkey in 2014 and attempted to cross into Syria. He posted online that he had taken an oath of allegiance to the leader of ISIL, and that “The only thing that matters to me is joining my brothers for the war against America [sic] liars.”

Van Haften was arrested at O’Hare Airport in Chicago, Illinois in April 2015, after his arrival in custody on an international flight from Turkey. He has been held in federal custody since his arrest.

U.S. District Judge James D. Peterson scheduled sentencing for February 17, 2017 at 1:00pm CDT. Van Haften faces a maximum penalty of 15 years in federal prison.

The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

The charge against Van Haften is the result of an investigation by the Joint Terrorism Task Force, the members of which include the FBI; Wisconsin Department of Justice, Division of Criminal Investigation; Dane County Sheriff’s Office; and University of Wisconsin Police Department. Assistance was also provided by DHS.

The case is being prosecuted by First Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Anderson for the Western District of Wisconsin and Trial Attorney Lolita Lukose of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Iraqi Refugee Convicted of Attempting to Provide Material Support to ISIL



HOUSTON – Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan, the 24-year-old Houston resident charged with attempting to provide material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization, has pleaded guilty.

U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Mary B. McCord, Special Agent in Charge Perrye K. Turner of the FBI’s Houston Division and Special Agent in Charge Mark Dawson of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Houston made the announcement.

Al Hardan, a refugee born in Iraq, pleaded guilty today to one count of attempting to provide material support – specifically himself – to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Al Hardan entered the United States as a refugee on or about Nov. 2, 2009. Prior to entering the country, Al Hardan was in at least two refugee camps in Jordan and Iraq. After being admitted into the U.S. as an Iraqi refugee, he was granted legal permanent residence status on or about Aug. 22, 2011, and had resided in Houston.

In April 2014, federal agents began investigating Al Hardan who had been communicating with a California man whom he understood  was associated with Al-Nusrah front. In those communications, the individual had told Al Hardan that he had previously traveled to Syria to fight for Al-Nusrah and discussed plans to return to Syria with Al Hardan to fight for Al-Nusrah.

Beginning in June 2014 and continuing through 2015, Al Hardan also developed a relationship with a Confidential Human Source (CHS). During that time, they discussed traveling overseas to support ISIL in fighting jihad and various ways to assist ISIL. Al Hardan also said he wanted to be trained in building remote transmitter/receiver detonators for improvised explosive devices, wanted to learn to use cell phones as the remote detonators and wanted to build remote detonators for ISIL. Al Hardan indicated he taught himself how to make remote detonators by accessing online training videos and other resources he found online and showed the CHS a circuit board he built to be used as a transmitter for a detonator.

On Nov. 5, 2014, Al Hardan took an oath of loyalty to ISIL, according to the plea agreement. Two days later, Al Hardan and the CHS participated in approximately one hour of tactical weapons training with an AK-47 that Al Hardan indicated he wanted.  

During the investigation, Al Hardan had also posted many statements on social media in support of ISIL. One of those included a photo of a Humvee with an ISIL flag. Above the photo, Al Hardan posted, “ISIS yesterday in Iraq, today in Syria and Allah willing, tomorrow in Jerusalem.” He also made numerous statements about his plans to travel to Syria and fight alongside ISIL and become a martyr. In one instance he said “I want to blow myself up. I want to travel with the Mujahidin.  I want to travel to be with those who are against America. I am against America.”

Upon his arrest in January 2016, investigators discovered training CDs on how to build remote detonators, electronic circuitry components, tools used to build circuitry, multiple cell phones (that had not been activated), a prayer list for committing Jihad and becoming a martyr and the ISIL flag.

Al Hardan has been and will remain in custody pending his sentencing hearing, set for Jan. 17, 2017. At that time, he faces up to 20 years in federal prison and a possible $250,000 fine.

The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force and HSI conducted the investigation with the assistance of the Houston Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorneys S. Mark McIntyre and Ralph Imperato are prosecuting the case with assistance of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.