MINNEAPOLIS – Hanad Mustofe Musse, 19, of Minneapolis, pleaded guilty today to conspiring with at least eight other individuals to travel to Syria in an effort to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a designated foreign terrorist organization. Musse was initially charged by criminal complaint on April 20, 2015, and was subsequently indicted on May 19, 2015. Musse pleaded guilty today before Senior U.S. District Judge Michael J. Davis of the District of Minnesota.
Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin and U.S. Attorney Andrew M. Luger of the District of Minnesota made the announcement.
“Hanad Mustofe Musse conspired to provide material support to ISIL and attempted to travel to Syria to join their ranks overseas,” said Assistant Attorney General Carlin. “The National Security Division’s highest priority is counterterrorism and we will continue to pursue justice against those who seek to provide material support to designated foreign terrorist organizations.”
“The facts set forth in Mr. Musse’s guilty plea underscore the length and breadth of this criminal conspiracy,” said U.S. Attorney Luger. “This defendant made multiple attempts to leave Minnesota to join ISIL – criminal prosecution was the best remaining option to stop him and potentially save his life. Twin Cities’ youth continue to be the targets of an intense recruiting campaign by ISIL. Fighting back is the shared responsibility of a wide cross-section of Minnesotans – parents, religious leaders, teachers, community leaders and law enforcement. We must continue to work together to end the cycle of recruiting.”
As the defendant admitted in his guilty plea, between March and June 2014, Musse became aware of individuals in the United States and abroad who had traveled or desired to travel overseas to join ISIL. Musse joined this group of aspiring travelers with the understanding that ISIL was a designated foreign terrorist organization that engaged in terrorism and terrorist activity. The defendant participated in several meetings throughout 2014 in which he and his co-conspirators discussed traveling to Syria to join ISIL, including how they would pay for such travel, what routes they could take from Minnesota to Syria to best elude law enforcement and the feasibility of using fraudulent travel documents to travel to Syria.
Musse also admitted in his plea that by June 2014, he knew that co-conspirator Abdi Nur had successfully traveled to Syria and that co-conspirator Abdullahi Yusuf had attempted to travel to Syria but had been stopped by law enforcement at the Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota, International Airport. Nevertheless, Musse continued to make preparations to travel to Syria to join ISIL. Between Oct. 20, 2014, and Nov. 6, 2014, Musse made five cash withdrawals from his federal financial aid account totaling $2,400. He deposited those funds in a personal checking account that he opened on Nov. 3, 2014. Musse later used those funds to purchase a bus ticket from Minneapolis to New York City.
As admitted by the defendant in his guilty plea, on Nov. 6, 2014, Musse and co-conspirators Mohamed Farah, Hamza Ahmed and Zacharia Abdurahman purchased bus tickets from Minneapolis to New York City, where they met at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK). While at JFK, Musse purchased a round-trip ticket to Athens, Greece, which he planned to use as a transit point from which to travel to Syria. Musse knew that Abdurahman purchased a ticket on the same flight for the same purpose. After being prevented by federal agents from boarding his flight, Musse lied to the agents about the true nature of his travel.
The defendant admitted in his guilty plea that after their failed November 2014 attempt to fly overseas, Musse and co-conspirators Mohamed Farah, Abdurahman and Ahmed met to discuss and coordinate false responses to anticipated law enforcement questions in an effort to conceal their intention to travel to Syria to join ISIL.
Musse admitted in his guilty plea that he continued to meet with his co-conspirators throughout the winter and spring of 2015 to discuss and plan another attempt to travel to Syria to join ISIL. As a result of some of those meetings, Musse willingly agreed to participate in a scheme to obtain false passports, travel from Minnesota to Mexico and fly overseas to join ISIL using those false passports. On April 6, 2015, Musse provided a passport photo of himself to a co-conspirator for the purpose of creating a fake passport. Unbeknownst to the defendant, the individual was a cooperating human source (CHS). When Musse’s family learned of his plan to travel, Musse requested the return of the photograph from the CHS. However, Musse admits that he did not withdraw from the conspiracy to provide material support to ISIL when he sought return of the passport photo. Rather, Musse was attempting to preserve the viability of his and his co-conspirators’ future travel to Syria.