A San Diego man who planned to join fighting in Syria before he became an informant for the FBI has been testifying in the trial of three Minnesota men accused of plotting to join the Islamic State group.
Abdirahman Bashir, 20, told the jury Thursday about his role as an FBI informant, including how he communicated with others who had already gone to Syria. The San Diego native has not been charged in the case.
Bashir says he became part of a group of young men who talked about joining the Islamic State.
Six have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to support a foreign terrorist organization.
Three others - Mohamed Abdihamid Farah, 22, Abdirahman Yasin Daud, 22, and Guled Ali Omar, 21 - are on trial. Some experts believe the month-long case may give insight into how Americans are recruited to join ISIS or act on its behalf.
The men allegedly planned to reach Syria by flying to nearby countries from Minneapolis, San Diego or New York City, and lied to federal investigators when they were stopped.
Farah was arrested April 19, 2015 in San Diego where investigators say he and his brother were attempting to cross into Mexico and travel on to Syria.
Bashir's family moved to the U.S. from Somalia in 1992. They lived in San Diego until they moved to Minnesota 20 years later.
In court, Bashir described himself as a Sunni Muslim with moderate religious beliefs that began to shift in the ninth grade.
In 2014, he said, he decided to join the Islamic State group in Syria, though his father, uncle and a cousin tried to talk him out of it.
Bashir testified that four of his cousins went to Syria and joined the Islamic State group. He said he believes all are dead.
One cousin close to his age, Hanad Mohallim, also lived in San Diego and was "like my brother," Bashir testified.
He said they also spoke about jihad and watched videos of fighters praying, fasting and dying together.
Mohallim went to Syria in March 2014, and Bashir gave him a ride to the airport.
"I told him ... if you go over there and think it's true jihad, then I'm going to come later on," Bashir testified. He said he stayed in touch with Mohallim and others once they were in Syria.
After Mohallim left, Bashir said "I became more popular" and the other members of the group, including defendants Omar and Farah, wanted to hang out with him more often and talk about his cousin.
Defense attorneys say Bashir supports ISIS but decided to cooperate with the government to avoid prosecution and make money, according to published reports.
They also said Bashir recorded months of conversation with the defendants and entrapped them in exchange for tens of thousands of dollars.