Abdirizak Warsame

Abdirizak Warsame (a.k.a. Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame) is an American citizen who is believed to have led a group of 10 Somali-American men from Minnesota who conspired to join ISIS in Syria.Mike Levine, “Feds Arrest ‘Emir’ of ISIS-Related Recruitment Effort in Minnesota,” ABC 7 (Los Angeles), December 10, 2015, http://abc7.com/news/feds-arrest-emir-of-isis-related-recruitment-effort-in-minnesota/1117161/. Warsame was arrested on December 9, 2015.“Minnesota man accused of conspiring to help Islamic State,” NY Daily News, December 10, 2015, http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/minnesota-man-accused-conspiring-islamic-state-article-1.2460965. He pled guilty to terrorism charges on February 11, 2016, telling the judge that he was radicalized by watching videos of al-Qaeda propagandist Anwar al-Awlaki.Mukhtar Ibrahim, ‘Terror suspect: Videos, not Minn. mosques, inspired me to seek out ISIS,” MPR News, February 11, 2016, http://www.mprnews.org/story/2016/02/11/isis-suspect-radicalized-by-videos-not-mosques. After cooperating with authorities, Warsame was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison on November 14, 2016.Associated Press, “Cooperation Results in Light Sentences in Islamic State Case,” New York Times, November 14, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2016/11/14/us/ap-us-islamic-state-americans-minnesota.html?_r=1. In April 2018, he was released from federal prison and sent into the custody of a residential re-entry center.Stephen Montemayor, “Minneapolis man sentenced in ISIS case gets extra time at halfway house for gambling on soccer matches,” Star Tribune, August 8, 2018, http://www.startribune.com/minneapolis-man-sentenced-in-isis-case-gets-extra-time-at-halfway-house-for-gambling-on-soccer-matches/490268781/. He was then released to his family in the summer of 2019 and is under probation.Hannah Allam, “‘They Wish Me Dead.’ Convict In ISIS Case Faces Backlash For Helping Feds,” NPR, November 20, 2019, https://www.npr.org/2019/11/20/781111733/they-wish-me-dead-convict-in-isis-case-faces-backlash-for-helping-feds.

Apart from Warsame, the group of alleged co-conspirators includes Abdullahi Yusuf, Guled Ali Omar, Adnan Abdihamid Farah, Zacharia Abdurahman, Abdiwali Nur, Mohamed Abdihamid Farah, Abdirahman Yasin Daud, Hamza Ahmed, and Hanad Mustafe Musse.“United States of America v. Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame,” U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, December 9, 2015, 4 – 6, http://kstp.com/kstpImages/repository/cs/files/WarsameComplaint.pdf; Laura Yuen, Mukhtar Ibrahim, and Sasha Aslanian, “Called to fight: Minnesota’s ISIS recruits,” Minnesota Public Radio News, March 25, 2015, http://www.mprnews.org/story/2015/03/25/minnesota-isis. Three of the men pled guilty to terrorism-related charges.Terror Suspect Arrested, Accused Of Helping Others Join ISIS,” CBS Minnesota, December 9, 2015, http://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2015/12/09/10th-terror-suspect-arrested-accused-of-helping-others-join-isis/. The only member believed to have successfully reached Syria was Abdiwali Nur, who traveled through Istanbul in May 2014.“United States of America v. Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame,” U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, December 9, 2015, 8, http://kstp.com/kstpImages/repository/cs/files/WarsameComplaint.pdf. Authorities now believe that Nur is dead.Laura Yuen, “3 of 9 Twin Cities men sentenced in ISIS conspiracy trial,” MPR News, November 14, 2016, https://www.mprnews.org/story/2016/11/14/first-day-of-sentencing-isis-trial.

When Abdullahi Yusuf learned that Nur had flown to Turkey in spring 2014 with the intention of fighting alongside ISIS in Syria,“United States of America v. Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame,” U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, December 9, 2015, 4, http://kstp.com/kstpImages/repository/cs/files/WarsameComplaint.pdf, it prompted Yusuf to meet with Warsame and Omar to discuss making similar plans.“United States of America v. Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame,” U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, December 9, 2015, 4, http://kstp.com/kstpImages/repository/cs/files/WarsameComplaint.pdf. Afterward, the three men played basketball, then later watched jihadist propaganda videos with the other six individuals. Following their initial meeting, the group met regularly to discuss traveling to Syria to join and fight with ISIS.Dan Browning and Mary Lynn Smith, “Judge orders Twin Cities man suspected of ISIL support held,” Star Tribune (Minneapolis), December 10, 2015, http://www.startribune.com/feds-charge-another-somali-youth-with-supporting-isil-terrorists/361354001/.

Warsame encouraged those of his friends with passports and money to travel to Syria by the end of the summer of 2014.“Minnesota man accused of conspiring to help Islamic State,” NY Daily News, December 10, 2015, http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/minnesota-man-accused-conspiring-islamic-state-article-1.2460965. He helped to pay for expedited passport applications, prepared travel itineraries, and shopped for items needed for their trips.“Minnesota man accused of conspiring to help Islamic State,” NY Daily News, December 10, 2015, http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/minnesota-man-accused-conspiring-islamic-state-article-1.2460965; “10th Terror Suspect Arrested, Accused Of Helping Others Join ISIS,” CBS Minnesota, December 9, 2015, http://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2015/12/09/10th-terror-suspect-arrested-accused-of-helping-others-join-isis/; “United States of America v. Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame,” U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, December 9, 2015, 6, http://kstp.com/kstpImages/repository/cs/files/WarsameComplaint.pdf. Warsame himself attempted to apply for an expedited passport in the spring of 2014, however, his application was denied. He eventually obtained a passport in August of 2014, although he apparently never made any effort to travel.“United States of America v. Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame,” U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, December 9, 2015, 7, http://kstp.com/kstpImages/repository/cs/files/WarsameComplaint.pdf.

Several members of Warsame’s group attempted to leave the United States. Some tried to fly out of Minneapolis and others took buses across the country in an attempt to leave from John F. Kennedy Airport in New York. Law enforcement officials were able to thwart their attempts and prevent them from boarding their flights.“United States of America v. Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame,” U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, December 9, 2015, 8, http://kstp.com/kstpImages/repository/cs/files/WarsameComplaint.pdf; “10th Terror Suspect Arrested, Accused Of Helping Others Join ISIS,” CBS Minnesota, December 9, 2015, http://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2015/12/09/10th-terror-suspect-arrested-accused-of-helping-others-join-isis/.

In the spring of 2015, the group revived the idea of traveling to Syria. Warsame suggested that they leave through Mexico instead of the United States. “10th Terror Suspect Arrested, Accused Of Helping Others Join ISIS,” CBS Minnesota, December 9, 2015, http://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2015/12/09/10th-terror-suspect-arrested-accused-of-helping-others-join-isis/; “United States of America v. Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame,” U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, December 9, 2015, 11, http://kstp.com/kstpImages/repository/cs/files/WarsameComplaint.pdf; Dan Browning and Mary Lynn Smith, “Judge orders Twin Cities man suspected of ISIL support held,” December 10, 2015, Star Tribune (Minneapolis), http://www.startribune.com/feds-charge-another-somali-youth-with-supporting-isil-terrorists/361354001/.

Warsame was arrested in December of 2015 and charged with one count of conspiring to provide material support to a terrorist organization.“United States of America v. Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame,” U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, December 9, 2015, 15, http://kstp.com/kstpImages/repository/cs/files/WarsameComplaint.pdf. Although he reportedly made no attempt to leave the country to take part in jihad, Warsame encouraged and aided the other members of the group to do so.Minnesota man accused of conspiring to help Islamic State,” December 10, 2015, NY Daily News, http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/minnesota-man-accused-conspiring-islamic-state-article-1.2460965; “United States of America v. Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame,” U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, December 9, 2015, 15, http://kstp.com/kstpImages/repository/cs/files/WarsameComplaint.pdf.>

Warsame pled guilty in February of 2016.Dina Temple-Raston, “Jihad Rehab Program To Get Second Participant,” NPR, February 11, 2016, http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/02/11/466466779/jihad-rehab-program-gets-second-participant?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=storiesfromfreshairnewsandworld. In March, Minnesotan U.S. District Judge Michael Davis ordered that Warsame—alongside Abdurahman, Musse, and Yusuf—be evaluated for a de-radicalization program.Stephen Montemayor and Mila Koumpilova, “Terror suspects will test deradicalization program,” Star Tribune, March 2, 2016, http://www.startribune.com/judge-orders-de-radicalization-study-for-4-terror-defendants/370806141/. German terrorism expert Daniel Koehler determined that Musse was at a high risk for reoffending.Esme Murphy, “German Expert: U.S. Way Behind In Terrorism De-Radicalization,” CBS Minnesota, September 21, 2016, http://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2016/09/21/deradicalization-expert/.

On November 14, 2016, Warsame—after serving 11 months in jail and cooperating with authorities—was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison with 20 years of supervised release. Judge Michael Davis told Warsame that he was “not convinced [he was] still not a jihadist.”Laura Yuen, “3 of 9 Twin Cities men sentenced in ISIS conspiracy trial,” MPR News, November 14, 2016, https://www.mprnews.org/story/2016/11/14/first-day-of-sentencing-isis-trial. Warsame had appeared on 60 minutes in October of 2016 to denounce ISIS and share his story. Davis reportedly told the court that Warsame’s appearance on television was just “another chess move.”“In God’s Name,” 60 Minutes, October 30, 2016, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/60-minutes-american-teen-isis-cell-leader-scott-pelley/; Laura Yuen, “3 of 9 Twin Cities men sentenced in ISIS conspiracy trial,” MPR News, November 14, 2016, https://www.mprnews.org/story/2016/11/14/first-day-of-sentencing-isis-trial.

In April 2018, Warsame was released from an Illinois federal prison and sent to a residential re-entry center.Stephen Montemayor, “Minneapolis man sentenced in ISIS case gets extra time at halfway house for gambling on soccer matches,” Star Tribune, August 8, 2018, http://www.startribune.com/minneapolis-man-sentenced-in-isis-case-gets-extra-time-at-halfway-house-for-gambling-on-soccer-matches/490268781/. He was ordered to undergo a substance abuse assessment following a report from his probation officer that Warsame used synthetic marijuana and other narcotics while in prison.Stephen Montemayor, “Minneapolis man sentenced in ISIS case gets extra time at halfway house for gambling on soccer matches,” Star Tribune, August 8, 2018, http://www.startribune.com/minneapolis-man-sentenced-in-isis-case-gets-extra-time-at-halfway-house-for-gambling-on-soccer-matches/490268781/. During his stay at the center, Warsame admitted he gambled on soccer games and collected winnings. On August 7, 2018, a U.S. District Court Judge added 15 days to his term at the center, as requested by his probation officer.Frank Rajkowski, “Man Sentenced in ISIS Conspiracy Admits to Gambling at Halfway House,” KSTP-TV (Minnesota), August 7, 2019, https://kstp.com/news/man-sentenced-in-isis-conspiracy-admits-to-gambling-at-halfway-house-abdirizak-mohamed-warsame/5020706/. Warsame was then released to his family in the summer of 2019.Hannah Allam, “‘They Wish Me Dead.’ Convict In ISIS Case Faces Backlash For Helping Feds,” NPR, November 20, 2019, https://www.npr.org/2019/11/20/781111733/they-wish-me-dead-convict-in-isis-case-faces-backlash-for-helping-feds. According to an interview with his mother, Warsame and his family have been ostracized by the Somali community in Minneapolis due to his cooperation with federal authorities.Hannah Allam, “‘They Wish Me Dead.’ Convict In ISIS Case Faces Backlash For Helping Feds,” NPR, November 20, 2019, https://www.npr.org/2019/11/20/781111733/they-wish-me-dead-convict-in-isis-case-faces-backlash-for-helping-feds.

 
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