A complaint was unsealed today charging Harafa Hussein Abdi, 41, of Minneapolis, with providing and conspiring to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and receiving and conspiring to receive military-type training from ISIS. Abdi, a U.S. citizen, was recently taken into custody overseas and was transported to the United States yesterday. Abdi will be presented before U.S. Magistrate Judge Valerie Figueredo in Manhattan federal court later today.
“As stated in the complaint, Mr. Abdi left his country to join ISIS, trained as a fighter and actively aided the group’s propaganda efforts to spread its vile ideology,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. “There is no higher priority for the National Security Division than to protect Americans from terrorist organizations and we will work tirelessly to find and hold accountable those who would join these groups to do our people harm wherever they may be.”
“As alleged, Harafa Hussein Abdi, a citizen of this country, traveled from Minnesota to join a group of ISIS fighters in Somalia,” said U.S. Attorney Damian Williams for the Southern District of New York. “While training with ISIS fighters in Somalia, Abdi allegedly carried an AK-47, threatened to attack civilians in New York City, and encouraged others to carry out such attacks. Our law enforcement partners have relentlessly pursued this investigation to ensure the disruption of Abdi’s alleged plans to wage terror on our shores and bring Abdi to an American court to face justice. No matter how long it takes, this office is steadfast in its commitment to investigate, disrupt and prosecute terrorist threats against Americans.”
“Abdi allegedly trained in an ISIS camp, encouraged others to fight on behalf of ISIS, and sent social media messages about committing violent acts in New York City,” said Executive Assistant Director Larissa L. Knapp of the FBI’s National Security Branch. “The FBI works tirelessly to protect the American people against acts of terrorism and will hold accountable all those who break our laws and endanger our citizens. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners both here and overseas to uncover and disrupt terrorist activity.”
As alleged in the complaint, Abdi, moved from Minnesota to Somalia in 2015. Once there, he joined a group of ISIS fighters at an ISIS training camp in the Puntland region of Somalia. During his time with the group, Abdi regularly carried an AK-47 assault rifle and received training on how to use it. In addition, Abdi worked in the ISIS group’s “media” wing, where he filmed footage for distribution by a pro-ISIS media outlet.
In social media communications during his time at the ISIS camp, Abdi described how he had left the United States and joined the “Islamic state.” Abdi also stated that he had made “hijra,” an Arabic term used by ISIS supporters to refer to traveling overseas to join ISIS and engage in jihad. Abdi also sent a photograph of himself carrying an AK-47 assault rifle, as depicted below:
Photo of the defendant carrying an AK-47 assault rifle
In or about January 2017, Abdi sent an audio clip of rap lyrics in which he expressed support for ISIS and described multiple acts of violence, including shooting and bombing individuals in New York City. Specifically, Abdi stated, “hollow tips put a hole in your Catholic vest, and chop his head off let it rest on his Catholic chest.” Abdi further stated, “We going to carry on jihad”; “Fly through America on our way to shoot New York up. They trying to shut this thing. We ain’t going. We going to come blow New York up.” Abdi sent the audio clip to at least 20 other social media users and included messages with the audio clip, such as “Fighting back the kuffar who’s at war with Muslims if [that] is not islam then I don’t know wats Islam.”
Abdi left the ISIS camp in 2017 after his relationship with the ISIS group’s leadership deteriorated. After being jailed by the group, Abdi escaped and traveled to East Africa, where he was arrested by law enforcement authorities. In subsequent Mirandized interviews with FBI personnel, Abdi admitted that he had joined the training camp, which was affiliated with a known ISIS leader in Somalia. Abdi also identified himself in an ISIS propaganda video that he helped to film at the training camp in which Abdi carried an AK-47 assault rifle, promoted ISIS and urged others to join and fight on its behalf. In the video, Abdi said, “We thank almighty God for making us His soldiers and chose us to be among the Khilafa troops,” and “So do not stay behind, brother, and get on this caravan…. Those who believe fight in the cause of Allah, and those who reject Faith fight in the cause of Evil.” Abdi also admitted that he was trained on and regularly carried an AK-47 assault rifle and practiced shooting the AK-47 in the Somali wilderness outside the camp.
Abdi is charged with (i) conspiring to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison; (ii) providing material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison; (iii) conspiring to receive military-type training from a designated foreign terrorist organization, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison; and (iv) receiving military-type training from a designated foreign terrorist organization, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, a fine or both.
The FBI’s New York Field Office’s Joint Terrorism Task Force investigated the case. The National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section, Justice’s Department’s Office of International Affairs, FBI’s Counterterrorism Division, the FBI’s International Operations Division and the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection provided assistance.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas S. Bradley for the Southern District of New York is prosecuting the case, with assistance from Trial Attorney Kevin Nunnally of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.
A criminal complaint is merely an allegation. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.