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Ohio Man Who Traveled to Syria and Back Arrested on Terror Charges

An Ohio man allegedly traveled to Syria to train with al-Nusra Front, then returned home to plot attacks. It's a rare instance of an American returning to U.S. shores after training with terrorists.

abdirahman-sheik-mohamud

A federal grand jury has indicted a 23-year-old Ohio man with three counts of terrorism charges after he allegedly traveled to Syria and trained with al-Nusra Front -- a rare case of an American traveling to the Middle East and then returning home with the intention of launching a terrorist attack.

The Justice Department on Thursday said Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud, of Columbus, Ohio, traveled in April 2014 to Syria, where he allegedly received weapons, explosives, and hand-to-hand combat training, as well as instruction on how to break into homes. Mohamud was born in Somalia, but became a naturalized citizen of the United States in February 2014.

The Justice Department routinely issues material support charges in terror cases, including against defendants who are suspected of planning to travel abroad to join extremists on the battleground or attend training camps. But Justice Department spokesman Marc Raimondi told Foreign Policy that Mohamud’s case marks “one of a small number that went, trained, and came back before getting arrested.”

A federal grand jury has indicted a 23-year-old Ohio man with three counts of terrorism charges after he allegedly traveled to Syria and trained with al-Nusra Front — a rare case of an American traveling to the Middle East and then returning home with the intention of launching a terrorist attack.

The Justice Department on Thursday said Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud, of Columbus, Ohio, traveled in April 2014 to Syria, where he allegedly received weapons, explosives, and hand-to-hand combat training, as well as instruction on how to break into homes. Mohamud was born in Somalia, but became a naturalized citizen of the United States in February 2014.

The Justice Department routinely issues material support charges in terror cases, including against defendants who are suspected of planning to travel abroad to join extremists on the battleground or attend training camps. But Justice Department spokesman Marc Raimondi told Foreign Policy that Mohamud’s case marks “one of a small number that went, trained, and came back before getting arrested.”

The arrest, and the fact that Mohamud managed to travel to Syria to train and then return home, is bound to raise concerns about the prospects of a U.S. citizen launching a terrorist attack on American shores.

According to charging documents, his brother, Aden, began fighting for Nusra militants in Syria in August 2013. Once there, Aden and Mohamud sent online messes to each other about fighting together. While still in Ohio, Mohamud wanted to send his brother money, but Aden warned said opening a bank account would “get ur hands dirty.”

Mohamud was undecided on what terror group to join, according to the indictment. He allegedly told a friend he would determine which one was most effective, although he appears to have gone back and forth between Nusra and the Islamic State: At one point, he posted an image of the Islamic State flag on his Facebook page.

The Nusra Front is linked to al Qaeda. They are fighting the Islamic State for control of Syria, a group they disavowed in February 2014. Al-Shabab, by comparison, is linked to al Qaeda. Other Somali-Americans from Columbus, home to a large Somali population, have been arrested for conspiring with al-Shabab, a terrorist group active in Somalia, Kenya, and Uganda.

Once in Syria, Mohamud sent videos of himself showing off a gun and standing in front of a house he said he lived in. In a third video, he showed off jihadi essentials: a turban and an AK-47.

Authorities allege Mohamud returned to the United States in June 2014. In an interview last February, he told FBI agents he never left Istanbul. Authorities say he returned home with orders to carry about terror attacks against military targets and the police and had talked about carrying out attacks in Texas.

He is charged with one count of providing material support to Nusra, one charge of providing support to terrorists, and a third of lying to federal agents. He has been in state custody since Feb. 21 and will now be transferred into federal hands.

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