One night in August 2007, 10-year-old Mohamed Roble was riding on a school bus when it pulled onto a Minneapolis bridge during the evening commute. Officials said that Roble, 62 other children and the bus driver were traveling on the Interstate 35W bridge when it began to crumble into the Mississippi River below.
The disaster would become the deadliest bridge collapse in modern U.S. history, killing 13 people and injuring 145 others. Roble’s parents filed a lawsuit against Minnesota and others after the collapse and eventually reached a settlement.
In 2014, Roble turned 18 and began to receive money from this settlement, initially getting more than $91,000, according to a court filing this week. Federal authorities said in the filing that not long after Roble got that money, he left the country, making his way to China, Turkey and, ultimately, Syria, where they say he joined the Islamic State.
The FBI says that he has been using the money from his settlement to pay for things such as cars and weddings, showing “financial generosity” once he got there.
According to an FBI affidavit, filed with a criminal complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota on Tuesday, Roble joined the militant group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, and is fighting in Syria. In the affidavit, an FBI agent states that the bureau came to this conclusion based on an investigation that included comments from an unnamed “confidential human source,” financial evidence and social media postings.
It was not immediately clear whether Roble, who turned 20 last week, had an attorney. No attorney was listed in court records.
Roble became the 11th man from the Twin Cities area charged with supporting the group, according to the Justice Department. All told, 13 people from Minnesota have been charged in connection with the Islamic State, a number that is second only to New York.
Eight people in Minnesota have been convicted, while the cases of four others are still pending. The FBI has swept up 10 other young men from the large Somali American community in the Twin Cities, prompting anxieties among parents and others in the area.
The FBI affidavit mentions these other cases, noting that one of these men — Abdi Nur, who was charged in 2014 with supporting the Islamic State, and who the FBI says joined the group in Syria — is Roble’s uncle. The FBI states that Nur was last known to be fighting in Syria, and at two points in 2015, Roble’s iTunes account was accessed from the same IP address as Nur’s Facebook account, suggesting that they were together.
This document also says that Roble’s debit card was used in a city in southern Turkey — not far from the Syrian border crossing — repeatedly used to buy clothing, electronics and sports equipment.
According to the FBI, at one point in 2015 their confidential human source recorded discussions by others about Roble, discussing his “financial generosity to his fellow ISIL members in Syria.”
The affidavit includes a partial transcript that quotes Guled Ali Omar, who has been called the mastermind of the Twin Cities group hoping to travel to Syria, speaking with the bureau’s confidential source and saying that Roble brought $20,000 with him to the region.
“After, he bought all the brothers over there a new car,” the transcript quotes Omar as saying. It also says Omar said Roble was “passing out money like it’s candy” and said that another man has two wives, and Roble “paid for both of them.”
Omar, who pleaded guilty, was convicted by a federal jury in June of conspiring to commit murder in Syria on the Islamic State’s behalf.