Three Minnesota men sentenced for trying to aid Islamic State

November 14, 2016 1:02 PM EST

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By Timothy Mclaughlin

(Reuters) - Three Somali-American men from Minnesota were sentenced on Monday for conspiring to support the Islamic State militant group in Syria in 2014 and early 2015, the Department of Justice said.

The three are part of a larger group of nine men who will be sentenced in Minnesota this week for their attempts to aid Islamic State, which holds territory in Iraq and Syria. The group has sympathizers and recruits around the world who have carried out shootings and bombings of civilians.

Abdullahi Yusuf, 20, was given no additional prison time and ordered to serve 20 years of supervised release, the department said in a statement.

Yusuf was stopped by FBI agents at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in May 2014 as he sought to fly to Turkey. He pleaded guilty to conspiring to support Islamic State in February 2015.

Yusuf had spent 22 months in custody and renounced Islamic State in court on Monday, according to KMSP, a Fox News affiliate.

"I no longer believe in that ideology nor would I ever consider it again," Yusuf said, according to KMSP. "The only reason I'm alive today is because I was stopped at the airport."

Abdirizak Warsame, 21, was sentenced to 2-1/2 years in prison. Warsame pleaded guilty in February to conspiring to support Islamic State.

Warsame was described by federal prosecutors as the "emir," or leader, of the group.

Both Yusuf and Warsame cooperated with U.S. officials and testified against co-conspirators, the Justice Department said.

Zacharia Yusuf Adburahman, 21, received a 10-year sentence, the harshest handed down on Monday.

Adburahman, along with three other people, took a bus to New York in 2014 in an attempt to travel to Syria and join the Islamic State.

They was stopped but returned to Minnesota, where Adburahman planned another attempt to travel to Syria. He pleaded guilty in September 2015.

"The hard work of rehabilitating those who seek to engage in ideological violence must continue," U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger said in a statement following the sentencing.

The Minneapolis area is home to a large population of Somali expatriates. U.S. authorities have said dozens of young Somali-Americans have left the area since 2007 to join al Shabaab, an al Qaeda affiliate based in Somalia.

In 2014, FBI officials said they had begun tracking a trickle of Somali-Americans from the Minneapolis area to Syria in general and to Islamic State-held areas in particular.

(Reporting by Timothy Mclaughlin in Chicago; Editing by Grant McCool and Dan Grebler)



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