3 charged in US with aiding Somali terror group

The Associated Press
Wednesday, November 3, 2010; 6:16 PM

ST. LOUIS -- A federal grand jury has charged three men, including one from St. Louis and one from Minneapolis, with conspiring to funnel money to a terrorist group in Somalia that the U.S. says has ties to al-Qaida.

In an indictment returned Oct. 21 and unsealed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in St. Louis, prosecutors charged St. Louis taxi driver Mohamud Abdi Yusuf, a Somali national who immigrated to the U.S. as a refugee, with one count of conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization and three counts of providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization - the radical Islamist group al-Shabab.

The government contends that Yusuf and Abdi Mahdi Hussein sent money through a Minneapolis wire-transfer business where Hussein worked to al-Shabab supporters in Somalia between 2008 and at least July 2009. Hussein, who is also of Somali descent, is charged with one count of conspiracy to structure monetary transactions. Yusuf also faces that count.

Duane Mohamed Diriye, who prosecutors contend was on the receiving end of some transactions, is charged with conspiracy and terrorist-funding counts and is believed to be in Somalia or Kenya.

The government says that Yusuf used aliases to wire the funds to al-Shabab supporters in Somalia through Qaran Financial Express, where authorities say Hussein worked. It was one of three Minneapolis money transfer businesses searched by FBI agents in April 2009.

Kulane Darman, president of Qaran Financial Express, told The Associated Press he doesn't know Hussein and the information from the government is incorrect.

"I don't know this person. This person never worked for me," Darman said.

According to the indictment, Yusuf, Hussein and other unspecified alleged schemers tried to mask thousands of dollars worth of wire transfers by breaking them up into small, independent transactions. They spoke in code and used bogus names, all to skirt laws governing wire transactions and to avoid detection, authorities said.

Federal agents arrested Yusuf on Monday in St. Louis and arrested Hussein on Tuesday in Minneapolis.

Both men made court appearances Tuesday. Yusuf's federal defender declined to comment Wednesday. A message left with Hussein's federal defender was not immediately returned, but authorities say he was released on bond. A phone listing for him was not available.

On Tuesday, a similar indictment was unsealed in California alleging that three San Diego residents coordinated fundraising and money transfers to al-Shabab in 2007 and 2008. Two of the San Diego men pleaded not guilty Wednesday. The third, who is accused of providing a Somali house for al-Shabab fighters, had a hearing scheduled for Friday.

The U.S. government's push to dry up funding sources of potential terrorist outfits has been an increasingly common tactic, complementing traditional military efforts, said Jeffrey Addicott, the director of the Center for Terrorism Law at St. Mary's University in San Antonio.

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