Minneapolis (US): A teenager who had been stopped at the airport as he was trying to travel to Syria has pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organisation.
Abdullahi Mohamud Yusuf, 18, admitted in US District Court yesterday that he had intended to go to Syria last May to join the Islamic State group. He faces a maximum of 15 years in prison. No sentencing date has been set.
Authorities say a handful of Minnesota residents have travelled to Syria to fight with militants in the last year. At least one Minnesotan has died there. In addition, at least 22 young Somali men have travelled from Minnesota to Somalia since 2007 to join the terrorist group al-Shabab.
Yusuf admitted in court that he learned about people who had travelled or wanted to travel to Syria to fight against the regime of President Bashar Assad. Yusuf said he attended meetings in Minnesota last March and April in which participants discussed fighting.
Court documents show Yusuf, who was in high school at the time, applied for an expedited passport shortly after he turned 18 in April and lied about the nature of his travel, telling a passport agent he was going to Istanbul, Turkey, for vacation.
FBI agents stopped Yusuf at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on May 28, and he was arrested six months later.
Yusuf said yesterday that he actually had planned to meet another man, Abdi Nur, in Istanbul, and that the two of them planned to travel to Syria together. Nur, who is also charged in the case, is believed to be fighting with militants in Syria.
Yusuf said another person, who has not been publicly identified or charged, gave him money for his plane ticket. Jean Brandl, Yusuf's attorney, pointed out in court that the US did not declare the Islamic State group a foreign terrorist organisation until just 12 days before Yusuf tried to leave Minnesota.
Brandl said after yesterday's hearing that her client wants to take full responsibility for what he has done and move on with his life.