Man facing terror charges once worked as baggage handler at Minneapolis airport: FBI

MINNEAPOLIS -- A man who faces terrorism-related charges once boasted that he was capable of building rockets that could threaten planes landing at Minneapolis-St.

See Full Article

Paul International Airport, and also once worked at the airport as a baggage handler, an FBI agent testified Tuesday.

FBI Special Agent Daniel Higgins spoke at a hearing for Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame, 20. Warsame was the 10th young man from Minnesota's Somali community to be charged since April with terrorism-related counts accusing them of plotting to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State group. He was arrested and charged Dec. 9 with one count of conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization and one count of providing such support.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Becky Thorson ruled there was probable cause to support the charges, and that Warsame should not be released because he's a flight risk and danger to the community. The case now goes to a grand jury where prosecutors will seek an indictment so they can proceed to trial.

Three of the other defendants have pleaded guilty, while five are scheduled to go on trial in May. The FBI says one is in Syria.

Higgins' testimony added details that weren't in the criminal complaint against Warsame, which included an affidavit from another FBI agent, Vadym Vinetsky, who wrote that Warsame was appointed "emir," or leader of the local group, by Guled Ali Omar, who was planning to leave for Syria but was thwarted and is now among those awaiting trial.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Winter told the court Warsame's time as emir was brief, but it showed his leadership role in the alleged conspiracy, helping one defendant with money for an expedited passport and helping another alleged co-conspirator make contact with Islamic State facilitators in Turkey.

Recordings secretly made by an FBI informant included a conversation Warsame had with Omar about weapons, Higgins said. They discussed a propaganda video about a "tank hunter" who used rocket-propelled grenades. "The defendant indicated he would like to take such a role and said he quote, loved RPGs," he testified.

In another conversation recorded by the informant, while walking around Lake Nokomis, which is under one of the airport's main flight paths, Warsame said he could build "homemade rockets" that could reach 2,000 feet (600 metres), Higgins testified. He suggested that was enough to hit a descending plane.

And from April to August of 2014, Warsame worked as a baggage handler at the airport "with access to the airplanes," Higgins testified.

Under cross-examination from defence attorney Robert Sicoli, Higgins acknowledged that he wasn't aware of any evidence that Warsame ever tried to build such a rocket. Sicoli then asked why, if Warsame was such a threat, authorities didn't arrest him earlier. Higgins replied that that decision wasn't up to him.

The agent also acknowledged that he wasn't aware of Warsame doing anything suspicious, planting bombs or doing anything else illegal at the airport.

"The only reason detention is being recommended in this case is the politics of the situation, Sicoli later argued, which drew an indignant denial from Winter.

"I want to make it clear that the court is not making a decision about politics," Thorson said as she issued her rulings, saying they were based on the evidence and the law.

About a dozen Minnesota residents have travelled to Syria to join jihadist groups since late 2013. In addition, more than 22 young men from Minnesota's Somali community have left the state since 2007 to join the Islamic extremist group al-Shabab in Somalia.

Higgins' testified that investigators determined that Warsame planned to travel to with his family to Somalia, then either break free of them and travel from there to Syria, or to wait in Somalia for a time when he believed al-Shabab would join forces with the Islamic State group.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • German parties hold first meetings after election

    World News CTV News
    BERLIN - German parties' newly elected parliamentary groups are holding their first meetings after an election that left Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative bloc weakened but still on top. It now faces a complicated task of forming a coalition government and the prospect of robust opposition from both the right and left. Source
  • Shooting attack outside Jerusalem kills three

    World News CTV News
    JERUSALEM - Israeli police and medical services say an attacker has opened fire at the entrance to a town outside Jerusalem, killing three Israelis and critically wounding a fourth, in one of the deadliest attacks in a two-year spate of violence. Source
  • Kurdish referendum vote latest issue affecting Middle East stability

    World News CTV News
    CAIRO - The Iraqi Kurds' independence referendum could mean further instability in the Middle East, where formal borders have remained in place for decades but recent conflicts have resulted in several de facto partitions. The vote is not binding, and opposition from the international community, as well as Iraq and its neighbours, makes any formal separation unlikely. Source
  • Mexico tallying cost of deadly earthquake

    World News CTV News
    MEXICO CITY -- Mexican government officials are still tallying up the economic losses of the magnitude 7.1 earthquake that caused widespread damage in the capital, but for the manager of a downtown restaurant it is already all too clear. Source
  • Convicted Craigslist killer questions evidence surrounding deaths

    World News CTV News
    COLUMBUS, Ohio - An Ohio man convicted of killing three down-and-out men lured by fake Craigslist job offers is questioning the strength of the evidence against him. Lawyers for Richard Beasley say it doesn't make sense that someone would go to such lengths to rob destitute men with little or no money. Source
  • Sports and energy drinks unhealthy for kids and teens, Canadian pediatricians say

    Canada News CBC News
    Most children and teens shouldn't consume sports and energy drinks, and the products should no longer be marketed to them, the Canadian Paediatric Society says. In a new position statement released Tuesday, the society said sports drinks are high in sugar, which contributes to the obesity epidemic as well as dental cavities. Source
  • Trump associate denies Russia collusion ahead of House visit

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON - Longtime Donald Trump associate Roger Stone says there is "not one shred of evidence" that he was involved with Russian interference in the 2016 election. Stone is defending himself in a lengthy statement released ahead of a closed-door appearance before the House intelligence committee Tuesday. Source
  • Witness in murder trial run over in front of Vegas courthouse

    World News Toronto Sun
    LAS VEGAS — The sister of a murder victim was hit by a car Monday on a sidewalk outside the Las Vegas courthouse where the man charged in the killing is standing trial and she is on a list of potential witnesses, authorities said. Source
  • Police union blasts handling of Utah nurse arrest probe

    World News CTV News
    SALT LAKE CITY - Two officers under investigation in the rough arrest of a nurse have been unfairly made into pariahs after body-camera footage got widespread attention online, a Utah police union said Monday. The Salt Lake Police Association said in a letter to the mayor and police chief that it is "extremely concerned and dismayed" about handling that has "corrupted" the high-profile investigation, The Deseret News reported. Source
  • Smoke fills plane's cabin after landing at California airport

    World News Toronto Sun
    FRESNO, Calif. — Smoke filled the cabin of an Allegiant Air jet after it landed at a California airport on Monday, forcing coughing passengers to cover their faces with shirts and firefighters to board the plane, authorities said. Source