Maalik Jones

U.S.-born Maalik Alim Jones (also known as “Abdimalik Jones”) is a former foreign fighter for al-Shabaab in Somalia. Somali forces arrested Jones in December 2015 and transferred him to the United States later that month. The U.S. government indicted Jones in January 2016, and he has since been charged with four terrorism-related counts and one count of possessing a firearm during a crime of violence. Jones has been described in news reports as a white man with a long beard and a missing index finger. He reportedly does not speak any Somali.“US airstrikes kill the leader of ISIS in Libya who is also thought to be the fanatic seen threatening the West in chilling Coptic beheading video,” Daily Mail (London), December 7, 2015, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3349842/Pentagon-confirms-airstrikes-killed-head-ISIS-Libya-senior-al-Shabaab-leader-Somalia.html. In September 2017, Jones pleaded guilty to conspiring to provide material support to al-Shabaab.“United States Citizen Pleads Guilty To Providing Material Support To Al Shabaab,” U.S. Department of Justice, September 8, 2017, https://www.justice.gov/usao-sdny/pr/united-states-citizen-pleads-guilty-providing-material-support-al-shabaab.

According to a report by the Baltimore Sun, Jones was raised in a predominantly African-American Muslim community in Upton, West Baltimore. There, he attended a private K-12 Islamic school and a nearby mosque. Residents of Upton claim that there were few signs that Jones was radicalized before he joined the terrorist group in Somalia.Ian Duncan, “Accused al-Shabaab fighter came from heart of Baltimore's African-American Muslim community,” Baltimore Sun, January 17, 2016, http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/bs-md-maalik-jones-al-shabbab-20160117-story.html.

In 2005, Jones married a woman from Morocco. Three years later, Jones was charged with child abuse and second-degree assault after severely attacking his nephew. Court documents show that Jones pleaded guilty to the charges and spent close to a month in jail. He was fined $100, court-ordered to receive treatment for anger management, and given two years’ probation.Ian Duncan, “Accused al-Shabaab fighter came from heart of Baltimore's African-American Muslim community,” Baltimore Sun, January 17, 2016, http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/bs-md-maalik-jones-al-shabbab-20160117-story.html.

In July of 2011, Jones left behind his wife and two young children to join al-Shabaab in Somalia. According to court documents, Jones reached the terrorist group after traveling through New York, the United Arab Emirates, and Kenya.United States of America v. Maalik Alim Jones: Indictment, U.S. Department of Justice, January 11, 2016, http://www.justice.gov/opa/file/812376/download. Once joining up with al-Shabaab, Jones allegedly attended an al-Shabaab training camp, where he received religious indoctrination, and learned how to shoot firearms and operate rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs).Ian Duncan, “Accused al-Shabaab fighter came from heart of Baltimore's African-American Muslim community,” Baltimore Sun, January 17, 2016, http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/bs-md-maalik-jones-al-shabbab-20160117-story.html.

After completing training with al-Shabaab, Jones allegedly joined a specialized commando unit within al-Shabaab's fighting arm. The unit, Jaysh Ayman, is allegedly responsible for a slew of attacks in Somalia, as well as cross-border raids on military and civilian targets in neighboring Kenya.United States of America v. Maalik Alim Jones: Criminal Complaint, U.S. Department of Justice, December 12, 2015, http://www.justice.gov/opa/file/812381/download. Among other targets in both Kenya and Somalia, Jaysh Ayman is allegedly responsible for a June 6, 2014, attack on a hotel bar in Mpekatoni, Kenya, killing 40; a July 2014 attack on government buildings, a trading center, and a church in the coastal village of Hindi, Kenya, killing nine; and the June 14, 2015, attack on a Kenyan army base in Lamu County, Kenya, killing two soldiers.United States of America v. Maalik Alim Jones: Criminal Complaint, U.S. Department of Justice, December 12, 2015, 8-9, http://www.justice.gov/opa/file/812381/download. During his time with al-Shabaab, Jones appeared in at least two videos with the terrorist group, according to court documents.em>United States of America v. Maalik Alim Jones: Criminal Complaint, U.S. Department of Justice, December 12, 2015, 13, http://www.justice.gov/opa/file/812381/download.

In December 2015, Jones was arrested by Somali security forces 10 miles southwest of Mogadishu, allegedly while trying to flee the country for Yemen.United States of America v. Maalik Alim Jones: Criminal Complaint, U.S. Department of Justice, December 12, 2015, 13, http://www.justice.gov/opa/file/812381/download. After the FBI filed a criminal complaint against Jones on December 12, Jones was secretly flown back to the United States and brought to a U.S. court in New York.Ian Duncan, “Accused al-Shabaab fighter came from heart of Baltimore's African-American Muslim community,” Baltimore Sun, January 17, 2016, http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/bs-md-maalik-jones-al-shabbab-20160117-story.html. Early news reports claimed that Jones had surrendered to law enforcement in Somalia after defecting from al-Shabaab amid internal disagreements between the group’s foreign fighters and Somali fighters over whether the jihadists should pledge allegiance to ISIS or remain affiliated with al-Qaeda.Associated Press, “Somali forces arrest American fighting with Islamic rebels,” Journal, December 7, 2015, http://www.cortezjournal.com/article/20151207/API/312079682/SomaliforcesarrestAmericanfightingwithIslamicrebels;
Associated Press, “2 American extremists defect in Somalia amid tensions,” Business Insider, December 8, 2015, http://www.businessinsider.com/ap-2-american-extremists-defect-in-somalia-amid-tensions-2015-12;
Ian Duncan, “Accused al-Shabaab fighter came from heart of Baltimore's African-American Muslim community,” Baltimore Sun, January 17, 2016, http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/bs-md-maalik-jones-al-shabbab-20160117-story.html.
Some reports have suggested that Jones fled al-Shabaab out of fear of being targeted by the group's secret police.Tom Odula, “Official: 200 al-Shabab fighters pledge allegiance to IS,” Associated Press, December 24, 2015, http://bigstory.ap.org/article/e686123d8e8f4290851a279e812e25ff/official-200-al-shabab-fighters-pledge-allegiance;
“US born al-Shabaab insurgent Abdimalik Jones surrenders,” YouTube video, 0:42, Posted by CCTV Africa, December 8, 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UfuVXoZNU9A.

According to a phone interview in December 2015 between Reuters and a Maryland man identified as “Malik John,” the interviewee (believed to be Maalik Jones) “decided to leave [al-Shabaab] two months ago [in October 2015].” During the interview, “John” claimed that he “hated [al-Shabaab] because [he] found their ideology was totally wrong.”Feisal Omar, “U.S. citizen who fought for Islamist group surrenders in Somalia: official,” Reuters, December 7, 2015, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-somalia-militants-usa-idUSKBN0TQ2K320151207. However, U.S. court documents filed in December 2015 and January 2016 make no reference to a surrender or defection by Jones from al-Shabaab, neither due to ideological reasons, nor reasons tied to personal safety.Andrea Noble, “Maryland man indicted for support of al Shabaab,” January 11, 2016, Washington Times, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/jan/11/maalik-alim-jones-indicted-support-al-shabaab/;
United States of America v. Maalik Alim Jones: Criminal Complaint, U.S. Department of Justice, December 12, 2015, http://www.justice.gov/opa/file/812381/download;
United States of America v. Maalik Alim Jones: Indictment, U.S. Department of Justice, January 11, 2016, http://www.justice.gov/opa/file/812376/download.

On September 8, 2017, Jones pleaded guilty to conspiring to provide material support to and receive military training from al-Shabaab, and carrying and using an AK-47 machine gun, rocket-propelled grenades, and other weapons on behalf of the terrorist group. The military training charge carries a minimum sentence of 30 years and a maximum sentence of life in prison. The military training charge carries a minimum sentence of 30 years and a maximum sentence of life in prison.“United States Citizen Pleads Guilty To Providing Material Support To Al Shabaab,” U.S. Department of Justice, September 8, 2017, https://www.justice.gov/usao-sdny/pr/united-states-citizen-pleads-guilty-providing-material-support-al-shabaab. On May 29, 2018, Jones was sentenced to 35 years in federal prison, followed by five years of supervised release.“United States Citizen Sentenced to 35 Years for Providing Material Support to Al-Shabaab,” U.S. Department of Justice, May 29, 2018, https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/united-states-citizen-sentenced-35-years-providing-material-support-al-shabaab. He is currently incarcerated at Metropolitan Correctional Center in Brooklyn, New York, with a scheduled release date of November 11, 2045.“Maalik Alim Jones,” Find an Inmate – Federal Bureau of Prisons, accessed January 25, 2021, https://www.bop.gov/inmateloc/.

Jones was arrested around the same time as Muhammed Abdullahi Hassan a.k.a. Mujahid Miski, a Minnesotan who fought with al-Shabaab and promoted jihadist ideology online. The U.S. State Department issued a statement saying that Miski had “surrendered to the Federal Government of Somalia on November 6, 2015.”Email from U.S. State Department spokesman, December 7, 2015. In an exclusive interview with Voice of America while in custody, Miski admitted to working for al-Shabaab’s “media and preaching departments,” but left in 2013 because he believed the group was unfairly imprisoning, torturing, and killing people.Dan Joseph and Harun Maruf, “American Al-Shabab, Nabbed in Somalia, Denies IS Links,” Voice of America, December 8, 2015, http://m.voanews.com/a/american-al-shabab-arrested-in-somalia-denies-links-to-is/3093529.html.

Return to Full Database

Take action:

Help Counter Extremism

Stay updated on the latest

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

Fact:

On November 28, 2020, Boko Haram militants attacked farmers as they worked in the rice fields of Koshebe near the northeast Nigerian city of Maiduguri. Abubakar Shekau confirmed his faction was responsible for the massacre of 110 civilians.   

View Archive

CEP on Twitter