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Minnesota women found guilty of raising money for Somali terror group

By Chris Welch, CNN
updated 9:30 AM EDT, Fri October 21, 2011
An African Union soldier guards a street corner in Mogadishu, Somalia, in August 2011, after Al-Shabaab militants withdraw.
An African Union soldier guards a street corner in Mogadishu, Somalia, in August 2011, after Al-Shabaab militants withdraw.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Indictment says women solicited funds under pretense that they were for the needy
  • A federal jury convicted them Thursday
  • Al-Shabaab is a Somali militant group affiliated with al Qaeda

Minneapolis (CNN) -- A federal jury found two Minnesota women guilty Thursday of raising money for Al-Shabaab, the al Qaeda-affiliated militant group in Somalia.

According to the federal indictment, Amina Farah Ali, 35, and Hawo Mohamed Hassan, 64, of Rochester, Minnesota, solicited funds in ways that included going door-to-door "under the false pretense that the funds were for the poor and needy."

The two were charged with one count of conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.

U.S. officials designated Al-Shabaab a foreign terrorist organization in 2008.

Ali was also found guilty of 12 other counts for, according to the indictment, sending more than $8,000 in 2008 and 2009.

It's not the first time Minnesota has been connected with Al-Shabaab, which has been waging a war against Somalia's government in an effort to implement a stricter form of Islamic law, or sharia.

In recent years, approximately 20 young men -- most of them Somali-Americans -- have traveled from the Minneapolis area to Somalia to train with Al-Shabaab, and a number of them have gone on to fight with the terrorist organization, U.S. officials said.

Several of the young men are now facing federal terrorism charges because of their alleged involvement with Al-Shabaab. The alleged offenses include providing financial support to those who traveled to Somalia to fight for Al-Shabaab, attending terrorist training camps operated by the group and fighting on behalf of it, federal prosecutors said in a release.

Somali-American man admits to helping bring fighters to Somalia

Somalia has not had a stable government since 1991, and fighting between the rebels and government troops has added to the humanitarian crisis in the nation on the Horn of Africa.

Al-Shabaab has recruited more than 40 Muslim-Americans and 20 Canadians, according to U.S. Rep. Peter King, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. Three Muslim-Americans have carried out suicide bombings in Somalia, King said.

Two of those bombers were from Minneapolis: Shirwa Ahmed, 27, who was the first confirmed American suicide bomber in U.S. history, and Farah Mohamed Beledi, also 27. Ahmed killed himself and 29 others in the fall of 2008. The FBI identified Beledi as one of two suicide bombers responsible for killing two African Union soldiers in Somalia in May.

CNN's John Fricke contributed to this report.

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