Three Minnesota men accused of plotting to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State terror group were deeply committed to their cause and undeterred by their failures, a federal prosecutor told jurors as the men’s trial opened Wednesday.
Defense attorneys countered that their clients were just talkers and did not plot to carry out killings abroad.
In opening statements, Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Winter said the evidence will show how patient and determined the three defendants were to fight for the terror group.
Winter also gave jurors a taste of some of the videos they’ll see, which he says inspired the alleged conspirators.
Defense attorney Bruce Nestor said his client, 22-year-old Abdirahman Yasin Daud, was a talker, not a doer, who did not have “murder on his mind” when he sought out the Islamic State group, Minnesota Public Radio News reported.
“You will have to decide what is truth, what is lies,” Nestor told jurors.
Glenn Bruder, attorney for Guled Ali Omar, 21, also said his client was “all talk” and never even left Hennepin County, nor did he plot to commit murder.
Murad Mohammad, the attorney for 22-year-old Mohamed Abdihamid Farah, asked jurors to listen to the case and return a not guilty verdict.
Prosecutors say the three men were part of a larger group of friends in Minnesota’s Somali community who met several times from March 2014 to April 2015 to plan how they would travel to Syria to join the Islamic State terror group. The men allegedly helped each other get passports and money for travel, and talked about ways to contact the Islamic State group and make passage from Turkey to Syria.
All three have pleaded not guilty to multiple charges. The most serious charge is conspiracy to commit murder outside the United States. It carries the possibility of life in prison. The men are also charged with conspiring to provide material support to the Islamic State group and attempting to provide such support.
Six other men who were part of the alleged plot have pleaded guilty to various charges, while a 10th man charged in the case is believed to be in Syria.
Young men from Minnesota’s Somali community, the nation’s largest, have been a target for terror recruiters. The men who have pleaded guilty said they were drawn in by online videos and other radical propaganda, and believed it was their duty to protect fellow Muslims who were suffering at the hands of the Bashar Assad regime.
The FBI has said about a dozen people have left Minnesota to join terrorist groups fighting in Syria in recent years. Since 2007, more than 22 men have joined al-Shabab in Somalia.
A jury of 16 was seated Tuesday night for a trial is expected to last about three weeks. The government plans to call more than two dozen witnesses and introduce 340 exhibits.