A Minnesota jury found three young men guilty of conspiring to join ISIS and commit murder outside the United States on Friday afternoon in the largest conviction of alleged ISIS supporters in the U.S.
Abdirahman Daud, 22, Mohamed Farah, 22, and Guled Omar, 21, could face life in prison on the federal charges. A judge will sentence them in the coming weeks.
The three were part of a group of Somali-American young men in the Minneapolis area who met regularly to talk about the Syrian war. According to prosecutors, those conversations blossomed into several plots to leave the U.S. for Syria and join ISIS, including by driving to Mexico and flying from there to avoid federal officials.
Six other young members of the group have already pled guilty to lower charges and are awaiting sentencing.
The four-week-long trial included several of the defendants’ friends testifying against them and prosecutors playing secret recordings of their conversations captured by a friend who was working as an FBI informant. The three defense lawyers argued that the case was an example of entrapment and tried to discredit the 20-year-old informant, Abdirahman Bashir, who they argued had a history of lying.
Only one of the defendants, Guled Omar, took the witness stand and spoke to the jury. In emotional testimony last week, he told the jury he didn’t want to join the terrorist group. ““I was having a fight between two sides of me—one saying you’re going down, you’re going to go to prison; the other side saying you haven’t done anything wrong,” he said.
The 12-person, all-white jury deliberated for about two days before coming to their verdict on Friday. In addition to conspiracy to commit murder outside the U.S. and conspiracy to provide material support to a terrorist organization, Farah was convicted of lying to an FBI agent, and Omar was convicted of financial aid fraud—he used his financial aid money to fund travel to Syria, prosecutors alleged. Daud was acquitted of a separate perjury charge.
The defendants' family members wept as the verdicts were announced, according to journalists in the courtroom.
Already, the trial has divided the Somali community in Minneapolis, and many young Somalis say they are distrustful of their neighbors and government officials. Several times during the trials, arguments or fights broke out between friends or family members of the defendants and those testifying against them.
While dozens of alleged ISIS sympathizers have been arrested around the U.S., most have pled guilty. This case was only the third ISIS-related prosecution to go to trial, and was the largest to date. Two men in Brooklyn and Arizona were found guilty in March of attempting to provide support to the terrorist group and other offenses.
We will update this story as we get more information.
Casey Tolan is a National News Reporter for Fusion based in New York City.