- Associated Press - Monday, February 9, 2015

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - A Minneapolis man charged with lying to the FBI during a terrorism investigation was ordered detained while his case is presented to a federal grand jury, after a magistrate judge said Monday that comments the 19-year-old posted on Twitter amounted to threats.

Hamza Ahmed was arrested last week as authorities are investigating people who have gone to Syria to fight with the Islamic State group. Court documents say Ahmed and three other men from Minnesota took a bus to New York City in November and tried to board flights overseas. All four were stopped.

Prosecutors argued that Ahmed should remain in custody. His attorney, JaneAnne Murray, sought his release and noted that prominent community members were in court to support Ahmed. Murray said comments her client made on Twitter were simply hubris.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Steven Rau disagreed.

“The tweets that you issued were beyond hubris, they were beyond youth,” Rau said. “They were threats.”

According to information that came out in court, Ahmed allegedly indicated on Twitter that he was willing to martyr himself. Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Winter said Ahmed had been planning something since at least March, waited for months, and then got as far as getting on a plane.

“This is a patient young man who is prepared to die for the cause, according to his own words,” Winter said.

Authorities say a handful of Minnesota residents have traveled to Syria to fight with militants within the last year. At least one Minnesotan has died while fighting for the Islamic State.

According to an FBI affidavit, Ahmed and three other young men, identified only by their initials, took a bus from Minneapolis to New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and all four were booked on international flights departing JFK on Nov. 8. Ahmed and another man were booked on the same flight to Turkey, which borders Syria.

Ahmed was interviewed by agents in New York and Minneapolis. Among other things, he’s accused of lying about traveling alone and about his itinerary.

Little information has been revealed about Ahmed’s alleged companions. The affidavit says they are all between the ages of 19 and 20 and live in the Twin Cities.

Since 2007, at least 22 young Somali men have also traveled from Minnesota to Somalia to join the terrorist group al-Shabab.

Ahmed’s parents declined to speak to the media Monday. Omar Jamal, chief executive of American Friends of Somalia, said they are shocked.

“They didn’t know what was going on,” he said. “They are two working parents. Both work, try to pay rent, put the food onto the table, support their kids. They are as surprised as anybody else.”

Mohamud Noor, director of the Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota, said Ahmed was attending nursing school and wouldn’t be thought of as vulnerable to recruiting. He said he’s leading an effort to come up with solutions within the community to stop the kids from even thinking about traveling.

“They are victims,” he said of the young men.


Follow Amy Forliti on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/amyforliti

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