U.S. citizen Hamza Naj Ahmed has pled guilty to charges of financial aid fraud and conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization after he had allegedly sought to use a student loan of $2,700 in order to travel to Syria and join ISIS abroad.Associated Press, “Another Minnesota man pleads guilty to trying to join ISIS,” New York Daily News, April 25, 2016, http://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/minnesota-man-pleads-guilty-islamic-state-case-article-1.2614214. Ahmed, due to be sentenced in November of 2016, faces up to 15 years’ imprisonment and a lifetime of supervised release.“First 3 Minnesota ISIS recruit sentences range from zero to 10 years,” Fox 9, November 14, 2016, http://www.fox9.com/news/217476498-story.
Court papers reveal that Ahmed was among three others—co-conspirators Mohamed Abdihamid Farah, Zacharia Yusuf Abdurahim, and Hanad Mustafe Musse—scheduled to depart on international flights from John F. Kennedy International (JFK) Airport on November 8, 2014. Ahmed allegedly expected to reach Syria via Turkey, but was removed from the airplane by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents after boarding.“Hamza Naj Ahmed Indicted for Conspiring to Provide Material Support to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant,” FBI, February 19, 2015, https://www.fbi.gov/minneapolis/press-releases/2015/hamza-naj-ahmed-indicted-for-conspiring-to-provide-material-support-to-the-islamic-state-of-iraq-and-the-levant.
On October 21, 2015, Ahmed was charged with a new count of conspiracy to commit murder outside the United States. He is scheduled to go to trial in February 2016.Associated Press, “Superseding indictment has new details in ISIL case,” Kare 11, October 21 ,2015, http://www.kare11.com/story/news/crime/2015/10/21/superseding-indictment-has-new-details-in-isil-case/74357926.
In February of 2015, Ahmed was charged with conspiring to provide material support to ISIS. Ahmed was denied bail on July 8, 2015 due to his designation as a flight risk. Ahmed was charged alongside a group of eight other Minnesotan-based ISIS recruits: Farah, Abdurahim, and Musse, as well as Abdullahi Yusuf, Abdirizak Warsame, Guled Ali Omar, Abdirahman Yasin Daud, and Mohamed Abdihamid Farah.“First 3 Minnesota ISIS recruit sentences range from zero to 10 years,” Fox 9, November 14, 2016, http://www.fox9.com/news/217476498-story. One of the defendants’ associates, Abdiwali Nur, is believed to have successfully joined ISIS in Syria 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.
Ahmed was sentenced to 15 years in prison on November 15, 2016. Ahmed told the court he was thankful to U.S. authorities who removed him from the airplane in November of 2014—admitting that they most likely saved his life. Ahmed told U.S. District Judge Michael Davis, “I want you to understand I am not completely changed. I’m in the process, but nobody changes overnight.” “Two Minnesota men sentenced for trying to aid Islamic State: local media,” Reuters, November 15, 2016, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-minnesota-security-idUSKBN13A2C8; Associated Press, “Minnesota Man Tells Judge, ‘I am a Terrorist,’ Gets 10 Years,” New York Times, November 15, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2016/11/15/us/ap-us-islamic-state-americans-minnesota.html?_r=1.