A San Diego federal jury has convicted four Somali immigrants accused of providing support to a foreign terrorist group, U.S. Attorney Laura E. Duffy announced Friday.
Investigators say the four men – one of whom is a popular imam at a City Heights mosque – allegedly conspired to raise money for the Somalia-based terrorist group al-Shabaab.
According to prosecutors, al-Shabaab is a violent militia group in Somalia that engages in suicide bombings, targets civilians for assassination and uses improvised explosive devices. The group was formally named as a foreign terrorist organization in February 2008 by the U.S. Department of State.
The suspects accused of providing support to the group include: San Diego cab driver Basaaly Saeed Moalin, 36; Anaheim-based cab driver Nasiri Taalil Mohamud, 37; Issa Doreh, 56, an employee at a money transmitting business that was allegedly the conduit for sending the funds to the organization; and Mohamed Mohamed Mohamud, 40, the imam at a mosque frequented by San Diego's immigrant Somali community.
After a three-week trial, a federal jury found that the four men conspired to provide money to al-Shabaab. Their plan was to transfer the funds from San Diego to Somalia through the Shidaal Express, a now-defunct local money transmitting business.
The defendants allegedly took part in numerous telephone conversations with members of the terrorist group.
The jury listened to recorded phone conversations between defendant Moalin and Aden Hashi Ayrow, one of al-Shabaab’s most prominent leaders.
In those conversations, Ayrow – who would later be killed in a May 2008 missile strike – urged Moalin to send money to al-Shabaab, telling him it was “time to finance the Jihad.”
According to investigators, Ayrow told Moalin: ““You are running late with the stuff. Send some and something will happen.”
Ayrow also repeatedly asked Moalin to reach out to the imam, Mohamud, to obtain funds for the terrorist group.
Prosecutors say Moalin also gave Somali terrorists permission to use his house in Mogadishu, Somalia, and may have offered terrorists a place to hide weapons on his property.
In the end, Moalin was convicted of five counts, Mohamud and Doreh were each convicted of four counts and Taalil Mohamud was convicted of three counts.
Among their charges, all four defendants were convicted of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, which carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The defendants were also all convicted of conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization and conspiracy to launder monetary instruments. Those charges carry a maximum of 15 and 20 years in prison, respectively, plus a $250,000 fine.
Sentencing for the defendants is scheduled for May 16.
The lengthy investigation into this case was led by the San Diego Joint Terrorism Task Force. The FBI, ICE and the Department of Homeland Security Customs and Border Protection also assisted.
In the end, U.S. Attorney Duffy says she’s pleased with Friday’s verdict.
“This case proves that our efforts to detect and disrupt terrorist financing – and prevent the violence that goes along with it -- has paid off,” said Duffy. “Justice was served today in San Diego.”