ISIS trial: Informant describes attempt to leave for Syria

- In late 2014, Abdirahman Bashiir says he hit a breaking point.  And when an FBI agent approached him to talk “I remember telling him I was getting sick of this stuff.”

Bashiir, the government’s confidential, and paid, informant spent Thursday morning on the stand recounting the myriad of details of his attempts to leave Minnesota and join ISIS fighters in Syria, and how the three men standing trial were part of those plots.

Mohamad Farah, Guled Omar and Abdirahman Daud are charged with conspiring to support a terrorist group and conspiring to commit murder abroad.  Six others have taken plea deals.

Bashiir detailed his first attempt to get out of the country in May of 2014.  He, Guled Omar and Abdi Nur picked up a rental car with plans to drive to San Diego.  But as they stopped by Omar’s home to drop off his car, Omar’s family intervened.

Bashiir was parked about a block away and “heard a lot of commotion then I saw Guled Omar leave his house and go around the block and a lot of people coming after him.”  As he was about to drive away, Omar’s sister jumped in the backseat.  In the middle of denying knowing her brother, Bashiir’s phone rings.  The caller ID said Guled Omar.  She’s emotional and demands “why are you lying to us?”

He said that only delayed their attempts to leave.  In fact, Abdi Nur departed the next month and joined ISIS in Syria. He hasn’t been heard from for a year and a half.

RECAP: Prosecutors point to phone records for ISIS conspiracy

Bashiir testified that he and the three defendants and a number of the other alleged co-conspirators all began working together and would often talk at work about Syria and their desire to join ISIS.  And, he testifies, they began watching countless recruitment videos and listening to Islamic songs tailored for the ISIS cause, lyrics that he translated to say “this life is humiliating, the afterlife is better.”

Some of those videos were played for jurors, including one that shows a mass beheading at the end.  Prosecutors stopped the video just before that occurred.

What began his change of heart, he testified, is when he learned that four of his cousins who had joined ISIS had all died in an airstrike in Kobani, Syria.  He stayed inside, stopped hanging out with the group, and didn’t want to be around a lot of people.

Guled Omar, he testified, encouraged him. “They died for a just cause,” he recalled being told.
But after a grand jury hearing, in which he admits lying to cover for himself and his friends, he’d had enough.  When an agent approached him to talk, he was ready.  When told he could be paid, he admits, it was even more appealing. 

And based on what the agents were saying, “I knew they knew everything that was going on.”  He was very afraid he was bound for big trouble if he didn’t agree to help.

“I told them that people were planning to leave again,” he said in court.  And that’s when he began being the government’s spy in the middle of those alleged plots to leave.

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