FBI arrests relative of terror group founder in S.A.
By GUILLERMO CONTRERAS | San Antonio Express-News | Published: February 4, 2014
SAN ANTONIO — A Somali man who lives on the Northwest Side was arrested this weekend on a charge of visa fraud for allegedly lying to the State Department and immigration authorities so he could resettle in the United States as a refugee.
Abdinassir Mohamud Ibrahim, 38, has lived in the U.S. since 2007. The FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force said in court documents that he lied his way into the country or left out damaging details — such as his relationship to two people who made international headlines because of their reported ties to terrorist groups.
Agents also claim that he illegally provided money to a friend affiliated with terrorist groups.
Ibrahim is the latest in a stream of people from the Horn of Africa to be prosecuted in San Antonio for suspected ties to terrorism.
“Ibrahim's family was famous, and his father formerly worked for the Somali government,” an FBI affidavit said. “Through his clan lineage, Ibrahim was related to known Somali terrorists Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys and Aden Hashi Ayrow.”
The affidavit said Ayrow was the former leader of al-Shabab and was killed in a U.S. airstrike in 2008. Aweys was affiliated with al-Shabab and al-Ittihad al-Islami, which the U.S. has placed on a list of specially designated global terrorist groups.
Such affiliations would likely have resulted in Ibrahim being denied entry into the U.S.
The affidavit also outlines much of the instability of Ibrahim's native Somalia.
Some people from the minority clans of Somalia have fled to refugee resettlements in neighboring Kenya, and it is there that Ibrahim went beginning in 1991 after the collapse of the government in Somalia amid infighting, the FBI says. The affidavit said he lied about his birth year because he thought he wouldn't be allowed as a minor into the refugee camps and that he lied about his clan ties.
In 1992, he returned to Mogadishu, Somalia, and lived with his family. From 1993 to 1996, Ibrahim's clan, the Hawiye, controlled Mogadishu. His subclan, the Ayr, actively supported the leadership of warlord Mohamed Farah Aideed and his militia, which was known as the United Somali Congress, the affidavit said.
In 1993, the U.S. military tried to capture Aideed or his lieutenants, resulting in an incident in which U.S. military helicopters were shot down by Somali militias and a subsequent U.S. operation aimed at rescuing survivors of the downed craft. The incident was retold in the book and movie “Black Hawk Down.”
During some of the U.S. airstrikes at the time, Ibrahim and his family fled to a village outside Mogadishu. In 1994, he left Somalia and again went to a refugee camp in Kenya, where he lived until 2007, the affidavit said.
Ibrahim was granted refugee status in the U.S. in May 2007 and resettled in Emporia, Kan. But the status was granted based on fraudulent information, the affidavit said.
He claimed he was of the minority Awer clan. He confirmed to agents that he lied when he stated on his immigration forms that he fled Somalia in 1991 because Aideed's militias killed his mother and that he never returned to Somalia after 1991.
The affidavit said Ibrahim also admitted to agents that he forged a close friendship with a man he knew only as “Hamza,” who joined al-Shabab around the time Ibrahim came to the U.S. Ibrahim sent $100 to Hamza through a U.S.-based hawala — an informal money broker — knowing Hamza was a member of al-Shabab, he acknowledged to agents.
Ibrahim, the affidavit said, knew that he was lying when he answered “no” on an immigration form asking him if he ever provided material assistance to any person or organization involved in sabotage, kidnapping, political assassination, hijacking or other form of terrorist activity.
At a hearing Monday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Henry Bemporad ordered Ibrahim held without bail pending a hearing Thursday. If convicted, Ibrahim faces up to 10 years in prison.
Among the other Somali men with suspected terrorism ties to have been prosecuted in San Antonio in recent years were Ahmed Dhakane and Abdullah Omar Fidse.
The FBI accused Dhakane of having led a large-scale ring in Brazil that smuggled “violent jihadists” into the U.S. via Texas. He was given two concurrent 10-year prison terms after pleading guilty to two counts of lying to gain asylum.
Fidse was sentenced to eight years in prison after an FBI agent testified that the defendant was secretly recorded saying he had been a cook for Osama bin Laden.
While detained at the Hidalgo port of entry in January 2008, Fidse spoke about jihad and was “in tears” after a U.S. airstrike in Somalia that killed Ayrow, the al-Shabab leader, authorities said.