An Ohio Muslim who pleaded guilty to plotting a “big” terrorist attack in the United States after receiving training from jihadists in Syria was found to have lied to the FBI.
The public release of the plea deal came Thursday as President Trump’s executive order temporarily banning travelers from Syria and five other terror hot spots went into effect.
A federal grand jury charged Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud with providing material support to terrorists, providing support to a designated terrorist organization and lying to the FBI about international terrorism.
His lack of cooperation with the FBI is a salient point, says Jihad Watch Director Robert Spencer, because the leading Islamic civil rights organization, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, urges Muslims in the U.S. not to answer the bureau’s questions if interviewed regarding terrorist activity.
The Somalia-born Muhamud went to Syria, where according to the charge sheet, he was instructed by the jihadist group al-Nusrah to return to the United States and commit an act of terror.
The Justice Department said he recruited several U.S.-based people to help him carry out “something big” before being questioned by the FBI.
Members of Minneapolis’ Muslim community, Jihad Watch noted in May, previously reported that CAIR’s Minnesota branch openly discouraged Muslims from cooperating with an FBI probe into the disappearance of several Somali-Americans youths.
But the youths were eventually found to have joined the Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab overseas.
CAIR, in its report, considers FBI questioning of Muslims seeking information about Islamic terrorists to be a form of harassment, casting it as an “anti-Muslim bias incident.”
“CAIR pretends to be a civil rights organization,” Spencer told WND in May, noting the organization’s critics long have pointed to evidence it’s a Hamas-Muslim Brotherhood front intended to obstruct counter-terror efforts.
“Its long record of discouraging cooperation with the FBI shows its critics to be right,” he said.
The FBI cut off its formal relationship with CAIR in 2009 after the organization was designated an unindicted co-conspirator in a Hamas terror-funding plot in the United States. And CAIR’s parent organization, according to FBI wiretap evidence entered in the case, was founded at an October 1993 meeting of Hamas leaders and activists in Philadelphia that included CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad.
Much of President Trump’s 90-day extreme vetting travel ban has been allowed by the U.S. Supreme Court to go into effect while the case is under review. The president’s initial executive order in January imposed a 120-day pause on all new refugees and called for a 90-day halt in admissions from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. After courts ruled against the order, a revised executive order, which also was blocked, removed Iraq from the list and granted admission to people with prior connections to the U.S.
‘Desire to die fighting’
According to court records, Mohamud came to the United States from Somalia when he was 2 years old.
He provided material support from the U.S. to his brother fighting in Syria in 2013. After becoming a naturalized citizen in 2014, he applied for a U.S. passport and bought a one-way ticket to Athens, Greece, with a layover in Istanbul, Turkey. When he arrived in Istanbul, he traveled instead to Syria and joined the al-Nusrah Front, with the help of his brother.
The court records said Mohamud trained with weapons and engaged in combat, expressing “a desire to die fighting in Syria.”
In its new report, CAIR complained of an “unusual surge in calls from Muslims who had been visited by FBI agents” in the week prior to the election of Trump last November.
CAIR listed 16 questions that FBI agents asked Muslims during that time, citing “multiple, independent sources.”
Among the questions, CAIR said, were:
- Do you know of anyone who would be loyal to al-Qaida or other extremist groups in Pakistan or Afghanistan?
- Do you know of anyone in the U.S. who raises money or provides support to al-Qaida or other extremist groups in Afghanistan or Pakistan?
- Are you aware of anyone in contact with anyone in al-Qaida or other extremist groups in Afghanistan or Pakistan?
CAIR’s Minnesota branch posted on its website a chart titled “What to Do If You Are Approached by Law Enforcement or the FBI” that urges Muslims to “remain silent.”
“Imagine if Italian-American organizations had responded to mob violence, as exemplified by the 1929 St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, by claiming that police efforts to fight mob violence unfairly harassed Italians, and that the violence resulted from discrimination like law enforcement investigation of the Italian community,” wrote Jihad Watch blogger Christine Williams.
“Imagine further that such organizations urged Italians not to cooperate with law enforcement but to call them for legal representation if the FBI asked for information.”
She asked: “Would anyone who heard that response have believed the organizations offering it were trying to help curb violence? Or would they have believed these groups were in the pocket of the Italian mafia and using any and every excuse possible to do nothing to oppose it?”
That describes CAIR, she said, which “seems never to have found counter-extremism steps it likes.”
What would meet CAIR’s approval?
WND reported in January the Florida chapter of CAIR joined CAIR’s national office and two other branches in filing 10 complaints with Customs and Border Protection, the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department of “the systematic targeting of American-Muslim citizens for enhanced screening by CBP.”
CAIR Florida complained that while only 1 percent of travelers to the U.S. are selected for secondary inspection, and American Muslims are 1 percent of the population, some 50 to 75 percent of travelers detained in secondary inspection “have often been documented to be Muslim.”
Counter-terrorism analysts argue, however, that individuals and groups that cite Islam as their motivation are by far the biggest terror threats, having carried out more than 30,000 attacks worldwide since 9/11.
Philip Haney, a former CBP officer who conducted secondary inspections at the nation’s busiest airport, Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson, told WND at the time that loyal citizens don’t have anything to worry about.
“If you say that you’re an American citizen and you want to help protect America from the threat of terrorism, then these kinds of questions would be the perfect opportunity for you to show your fellow citizens that Islam is a religion of peace by simply answering them,” Haney said.
He pointed out that CAIR and others who raise such concerns never offer alternative questions that would meet their approval.
Haney, co-author of “See Something, Say Nothing: A Homeland Security Officer Exposes the Government’s Submission to Jihad,” believes the current effort to curb the ability of CBP officers to inspect travelers to the U.S. is related to an ongoing lawsuit against CBP brought by CAIR’s Michigan chapter filed in April 2012. The suit was filed on behalf of American citizens who claimed their First Amendment rights were violated when CBP and FBI agents “detained and handcuffed them without evidence of wrongdoing and questioned them about their religious beliefs and worship habits.”
CAIR has accused the Trump administration of racism and religious bigotry for its plan to temporarily stop receiving immigrants and travelers from countries known to produce Islamic jihadists.
However, more than a dozen CAIR leaders charged or convicted of terrorism-related crimes.
The Muslim Arab Gulf state United Arab Emirates has designated CAIR as a terrorist organization along with groups such as ISIS and al-Qaida. And while CAIR has complained of the unindicted co-conspirator designation, as WND reported in 2010, a federal judge later determined that the Justice Department provided “ample evidence” to designate CAIR as an unindicted terrorist co-conspirator, affirming the Muslim group has been involved in “a conspiracy to support Hamas.”