Minn. women accused of terror financing face trial
Sunday, October 2, 2011
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — One of two Minnesota women accused of funneling money to a terrorist group in Somalia allegedly told potential donors to ignore charities and focus on “the jihad” and helped finance local Somali men’s travel to their war-torn homeland to fight, prosecutors alleged in court filings.
The details hint at evidence the government claims it has against Amina Farah Ali, who is scheduled to stand trial Monday on multiple terror charges. Prosecutors said Ali, 35, and her co-defendant, 64-year-old Hawo Mohamed Hassan, were part of a “deadly pipeline” that routed money and fighters from the U.S. to Somalia.
The women, both U.S. citizens of Somali descent, were among 20 people charged in Minnesota’s long-running federal investigations into recruiting and financing for al-Shabab, which the U.S. considers a terror group with ties to al-Qaida. Investigators believe at least 21 men left Minnesota — home to the country’s largest Somali community — to join al-Shabab.
Though others have pleaded guilty to related charges, the women are the first to go on trial.
Ali and Hassan maintain their innocence and claim they were collecting money and clothing for refugees. But prosecutors allege the women went door-to-door and held teleconferences to solicit donations for the fighters. In one of those recorded calls, investigators allege, Ali said to “forget about the other charities” and focus on “the jihad.” In others, both women speak with the leader of a militia allied with al-Shabab, and Ali gets updates on the fighting.
Both women, of Rochester, are charged with conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization. Ali also faces 12 counts of providing such support for allegedly sending more than $8,600 to the group from September 2008 through July 2009. Hassan faces three counts of lying to the FBI.
Each terrorism count carries a 15-year maximum prison sentence. The trial is expected to last about two weeks.
Investigators said they ran a wiretap on Ali’s home and cellular phones for 10 months, intercepting roughly 30,000 calls, some of which were between the two women and others, and searched the trash outside Ali’s apartment about 90 times, according to court documents and hearings in recent months.