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U.S. charges men with funding Somali extremists

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • NEW: Two defendants in San Diego case plead not guilty
  • Indictment says money was transferred through legitimate remitting businesses
  • The Islamist group Al-Shabaab has been waging war against the Somali government

(CNN) -- Separate federal indictments claim that supporters of the Islamic extremist group Al-Shabaab have funneled money for brutal terrorist operations.

In one case, two men were indicted in Missouri for allegedly funneling money to the Somali group, the Justice Department said Wednesday.

The indictment said Mohamud Abdi Yusuf of St. Louis discussed Al-Shabaab in code language and used fictitious names and phone numbers to send money to the group's supporters through remitting businesses in the United States.

Yusuf is also charged with conspiring with Abdi Mahdi Hussein, an employee of a licensed remittance company, to structure financial transactions so as to avoid any record. Hussein was also indicted and arrested for conspiracy on those transactions.

A third man, Duwayne Mohamed Diriye, is accused of helping distribute that money to Al-Shabaab from inside Somalia and Kenya. He has also been charged but remains at large in east Africa.

FBI special agents arrested Yusuf in St. Louis on Monday and Hussein on Tuesday in Minneapolis, Minnesota, according to the Justice Department. Both men appeared in federal court Tuesday.

If convicted, Yusuf faces a maximum of 15 years in prison and/or fines of up to $250,000 for each count of providing material support to terrorists. Yusuf and Hussein could each be sentenced to a maximum of five years in prison and/or fines of up to $250,000 for conspiring to structure transactions.

The indictments were made public a day after three men in San Diego, California, were similarly charged with providing support to the al Qaeda-linked group.

Issa Doreh and Mohamed Mohamed Mohamud, clad in orange jumpsuits, pleaded not guilty at a federal hearing in San Diego on Wednesday. A third man named in the indictment, Basaaly Saeed Moalin, was arrested Tuesday but was not in court.

The five-count indictment alleges conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, conspiracy to kill in a foreign country, money laundering and providing material support to terrorists.

According to the indictment, the three provided thousands in funding for Al-Shabaab to purchase weapons, including rocket-propelled grenades and improvised explosive devices.

Before his death in May 2008, Al-Shabaab militant leader Aden Hashi Ayrow had called "for foreign fighters to join Al-Shabaab in a 'holy war' against the Ethiopian and other African forces in Somalia," the indictment states.

The defendants, individually or together, funneled about $10,000 to Somalia, the indictment states, indicating that Ayrow told them, "it is time to finance the jihad." Each rocket-propelled grenade cost $270, an uncharged co-conspirator told them. A U.S. missile strike killed Ayrow.

Dozens of supporters for the defendants, many in traditional Muslim garb, packed the small courtroom of U.S. Magistrate Judge William Gallo, who set a bail hearing for Friday morning.

Assistant U.S. Attorney William Cole requested that the men be held without bail, alleging that they are flight risks and a danger to the community.

Prosecutors would not discuss the nationalities of the defendants.

Al-Shabaab has been waging a war against Somalia's government in an effort to implement a stricter form of Islamic law, or sharia. Somalia has not had a stable government since 1991, and fighting between the rebels and government troops has added to the impoverished east African nation's humanitarian crisis.

Just last week, Al-Shabaab publicly executed two teenage girls after accusing them of being spies for the Somali government, the group said.

"Those two girls were evil, and they were spies for the enemy [the Somali government], but the mujahedeen caught them and after investigation, they admitted their crime, so they have been executed," said Sheikh Yusuf Ali Ugas, commander of Al-Shabaab in Beledweyne, a town in central Somalia.

Al-Shabaab is one of almost 50 groups that have been designated by the State Department as foreign terrorist organizations.

CNN's Casey Wian contributed to this report.