Criminal Justice & the Rule of Law Terrorism & Extremism

International Terrorism Prosecutions: Chelsea Bomber Indicted and Nine Minnesotans Sentenced

Nora Ellingsen
Friday, November 18, 2016, 9:32 AM

Nearly two months after his arrest, Ahmed Khan Rahimi was indicted in federal court in the Southern District of New York on Wednesday, on charges related to the September bombing and attempted bombings in Manhattan and New Jersey.

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Nearly two months after his arrest, Ahmed Khan Rahimi was indicted in federal court in the Southern District of New York on Wednesday, on charges related to the September bombing and attempted bombings in Manhattan and New Jersey.

According to the Justice Department’s press release, Rahimi is charged with eight counts in the indictment—one count each of using a weapon of mass destruction, attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, bombing a place of public use, destroying property by means of fire or explosive, attempting to destroy property by means of fire or explosive, interstate transportation and receipt of explosives, and two counts of using of a destructive device in furtherance of a crime of violence (namely, the use and attempted use of weapons of mass destruction)—an increase from the four counts charged in the criminal complaint.

In addition to facing these charges, Rahimi has also been charged in both federal and state courts in New Jersey, but will face trial in Manhattan first. As I mentioned several weeks ago, he was recently arraigned on the New Jersey state charges from his hospital bed in Newark. Rahimi’s preliminary hearing is scheduled for November 23rd, where he will be represented by the New York Federal Public Defenders following the initial confusion surrounding the defendant’s representation, or lack thereof.

Meanwhile, the Midwest saw developments in an 11-man ISIL conspiracy.

Over the course of three days, nine men were sentenced for conspiring and attempting to provide material support to ISIL in federal district court in the District of Minnesota. The U.S. Attorney’s office actually charged 11 defendants as part of this conspiracy, but two—Abdu Nur and Mohamed Roble—remain unreachable as they fight alongside ISIL in Syria.

As I wrote earlier this summer, the nine men, as well as several uncharged co-conspirators, made multiple attempts to leave the country to join ISIL in Syria. According to his guilty plea, Abdullahi Yusuf attempted to leave the country with Nur in April 2014, but was stopped at the airport by federal agents. Adnan Abdihamid Farah, according to the stipulated facts in his plea agreement, had also attempted to travel but was unable to do so after his parents confiscated his passport.

According to the guilty pleas of Abdurahman, Musse, and Ahmed, the three men took a Greyhound bus from Minneapolis to New York City in November 2014. The four men attempted to board a plane for Greece, with the intention of traveling to Syria to join ISIL, but were stopped by law enforcement at JFK. Warsame, per his guilty plea, was the only member of the group who didn’t try to leave the country, but planned to do so in the future and actively aided his co-conspirators’ travel plans, even serving as the “emir” of the group for a period of time.

Judge Michael Davis sentenced all nine men disparately, with sentences ranging from time served to 35 years in prison.

Guled Omar, Mohamed Abdhihamid Farah, Abdirahman Yasin Daud, all 22 years old, were the only three co-conspirators who went to trial. The three men were found guilty by a federal jury on June 3rd. In addition to the material support charges, Omar was charged with one count of financial aid fraud, while Farah was charged with one count of perjury and one count of making a false statement. All three men were sentenced to between 30 and 35 years in prison with lifetime supervised release.

Their six other co-defendants pleaded guilty. Four of them—Hamza Naj Ahmed, who was charged with an additional count of financial aid fraud, Adnan Abdihamid Farah, Zacharia Abdurahman, and Hanad Mustofe Musse—were sentenced to between 10 and 15 years in prison and 20 years supervised release. But the final two defendants received substantially lighter sentences, reflecting their cooperation with the government. Both Abdirizak Warsame and Abdullahi Yusuf testified for the government at the trial of their co-conspirators and received sentences of 30 months in prison and time served respectively.

Interesting enough, in its issued press release, the U.S. Attorney’s office indicated the lighter sentences were not only a reward for cooperation, but also part of a move to stress the rehabilitation of ISIL sympathizers. While rarely, if ever, mentioned in Justice Department press releases, rehabilitation has been favored as a counter-ISIL approach by foreign counterparts, perhaps most notably Denmark.

Nora Ellingsen is a third-year student at Harvard Law School. Prior to graduate school, she spent five years working for the FBI's Counterterrorism Division. She graduated cum laude from Northwestern University with a B.A. in Psychology and Political Science.

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