MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) - Abdullahi Yusuf returned to the stand Monday morning for cross examination, a weekend after he testified against 3 friends on trial for conspiracy to join ISIS in Syria. Yusuf. The defense probed about who influenced the recruits’ views, and a name familiar to Fox 9 viewers came up: Amir Meshal.
In June 2014, a Al-Farooq mosque in Bloomington, Minn. kicked Meshal out and had him ticketed for trespassing. According to a police report, Al Farooq told Bloomington police, "We have concerns about Meshal interacting with our youth.” Several sources confirmed to the Fox 9 Investigators that Meshal met many of the 14 Minnesota men and one woman accused of being recruited to fight for ISIS at Al Farooq, where they would gather for payer, religious studies, and to play basketball.
In federal court Monday, Abdullahi Yusuf said he met Meshal at Al Farooq in spring of 2014, and said Meshal spoke to several others who are on trial or have accepted plea deals. Yusuf said Meshal had radical views – possibly too radical, as if he was working for the government and trying to entrap the young men.
Federal prosecutors and the US Attorney have declined to say whether Meshal is the subject of the investigation into terror recruiting in Minnesota.
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Propaganda and travel plans
On trial are Mohamed Farah, Abdirahman Daud and Guled Omar, all charged with conspiracy to commit murder abroad and conspiracy to provide material support to ISIL. Yusuf on Friday, testified about how they, as a group, had begun watching propaganda videos. He described how that led to them to plotting, then attempting, to travel to Syria.
Under cross examination by defense attorney Murad Mohammad, who represents Farah, he repeated that.
“It was my intent to join ISIS, yes. And everyone else in the group,” he testified. “I knew I was going to a training camp and I just wanted to fight.”
Yusuf was stopped at MSP Airport as he was about to board a flight that would eventually get him to Istanbul, Turkey. There, he explained on Friday, he was to go to the Blue Mosque and dial a phone number. Someone from ISIL would come get him.
The defense appears to be trying to show for the jury that Yusuf’s attempt to join ISIL were every bit as strong as the three men on trial, yet was never charged with the more serious charge of conspiring to commit murder and was allowed to take a plea bargain. The three men on trial were never given that offer.
Defense attorney Bruce Nestor, representing Daud, peppered Yusuf with even fiercer questions about his deal with the government, intending to show his desire to get out of jail was so strong that he agreed to cooperate with the government.
Before court began Monday, Judge Michael Davis ruled to allow evidence that Yusuf took part in spray painting graffiti that read “ISIS will remain” on a Minneapolis building. The prosecution had asked to exclude that evidence.