MINNEAPOLIS — A man who allegedly contacted a terror suspect who's wanted in Minnesota for his ties to al-Shabab has been charged with lying to the FBI, according to an indictment recently unsealed in federal court.
Mahdi Hussein Furreh is indicted in U.S. District Court in Minnesota on one count of making a false statement. He's expected to plead guilty Friday.
According to the Sept. 24 indictment, Furreh lied to the FBI in January when he denied knowing anyone by the name of "Adaway," even though the name was listed in his cellphone address book. He also told agents he had not contacted anyone by that name in March or April of 2013.
The indictment says that in fact, Furreh knew "Adaway" was a nickname for Cabdulaahi Ahmed Faarax, a Minnesota man who is at large and accused of encouraging local Somalis to return to their homeland and join al-Shabab.
The indictment says Furreh was in Nairobi, Kenya, in March 2013, and repeatedly contacted Faarax or tried to contact Faarax by telephone both before and after he arrived in Kenya.
The indictment also says Furreh told agents that "Mardaadi" — a person whom Furreh referred to in a text message — was someone he met in a coffee shop in Kenya in March 2013. The indictment says Furreh knew "Mardaadi" was also a nickname for Faarax.
It was not clear from the indictment whether Furreh actually met Faarax in Nairobi. A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office and Furreh's defense attorney both declined to comment Thursday.
Since 2007, roughly 22 young Somali men have left Minnesota to join the al-Qaida-linked group al-Shabab in Somalia. Some have died, some remain at large, and others were among those prosecuted for their role in what the FBI said was one of the largest efforts to recruit U.S. fighters to a foreign terrorist organization.
That investigation is still active, and authorities are also now investigating the travels of a handful of youth who have gone to join militants in Syria in the last year.
FBI spokesman Kyle Loven said Faarax is still wanted by the FBI.
He faces multiple terrorism-related counts and is accused of encouraging others in Minnesota to go to Somalia in the fall of 2007 by telling them they would experience a "true brotherhood" and that traveling for jihad was the best thing they could do. He also said fighting would be "fun."
In the spring of 2009, Faarax was questioned by the FBI more than once. That October, he was in a rental car that was stopped by authorities about 10 miles north of Las Vegas. The Nevada Highway Patrol learned Faarax was on the terror watch list, but no warrant was active for his arrest so they let the car go.
Faraax was later seen at the U.S.-Mexico border crossing at San Ysidro. It was believed that he made his way to Somalia, but his whereabouts are unknown.
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