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3 al-Shabab recruits plead guilty in Brooklyn court to US terror charges

May 12, 2015 By Tom Hays Associated Press
Brooklyn federal court. AP photo
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Three men pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges they were members of the al-Qaeda offshoot that has claimed responsibility for a series of deadly attacks in Africa, including one on an upscale Kenyan shopping mall.

Ali Yasin Ahmed, Madhi Hashi and Mohamed Yusuf, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to support terrorism, had been scheduled to go on trial early next month.

Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn had described the defendants as “dangerous and influential” members of al-Shabab who were trained to be part of an elite unit of suicide bombers. The men had “substantial knowledge regarding an al-Shabab research and development department that was developing chemical weapons for use,” the government wrote in court papers.

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U.S. authorities say the men were captured in Africa last year while traveling to Yemen to team up with al-Shabab there. They originally pleaded not guilty in a sealed proceeding to charges they supported terrorism.

All three men are from Somalia, authorities said. Ahmed and Yusuf are citizens of Sweden. According to news reports, Hashi was stripped of his British citizenship before he was brought to the United States.

The charges allege that from 2008 to 2012, the men traveled to Somalia to receive weapons and explosives training from al-Shabab and were “deployed in combat operations” there.

Government papers filed this year cited conversations intercepted by authorities in Sweden as evidence against the men.

In 2008, Ahmed and Yusuf “discussed … their intention to travel to Somalia for the purpose of joining al-Shabab and dying as martyrs,” the papers say. In another conversation, Ahmed said he was an associate of a suicide bomber who killed two dozen people, including three government ministers, at a hotel gathering in Mogadishu in 2009.

Ahmed was interviewed by authorities in 2008 but denied he was an al-Shabab supporter, the papers allege. But by 2011, all three were in Somalia fighting for al-Shabab and enrolled in a “suicide bomber training program,” the papers said.

Rampaging gunmen killed dozens in the attack on the Nairobi mall in 2013.

The defendants could face up to 15 years in prison, followed by deportation, when they are sentenced Sept. 25.

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