Feds: 4 Minnesota men took bus to JFK Airport for flights to Syria

The U.S. Attorney's Office has charged a Minnesota man with lying to federal agents after he was arrested at New York's JFK Airport on his way to Turkey, allegedly en route to Syria. Hamza Ahmed, 19, along with three others, took a Greyhound bus from Minneapolis to New York, where they were scheduled to depart Nov. 9, 2014 for Istanbul. Ahmed was the only one to successfully board the flight, but he was removed from the plane before it left the gate.

Turkey has been a main entry point to Syria for terror suspects seeking to join ISIS.

The travelers

Hamza Ahmed
M.F.
Z.A.
H.M.M.

All four men are between the ages of 19 and 20 and from the Twin Cities area. Officials at JFK prevented the other three from boarding their flights, and all four returned to the Twin Cities by bus following Ahmed's interview with the FBI.

Lying to the FBI

According to the criminal complaint and documents filed in court, Ahmed was interviewed by FBI agents. He said he was traveling alone, with plans to vacation in Madrid for four days by himself. However, the itinerary he booked would have allowed just one full day in Madrid, and Ahmed didn't have any hotel bookings or contacts in the city.

Ahmed claimed he wasn't traveling with the other men from Minneapolis, but video surveillance and computer forensics suggest otherwise. Security video from the Greyhound bus station in Minneapolis shows Ahmed and M.F. getting dropped off by a third party, checking in together and boarding the bus for New York together.

Investigators also discovered their bus tickets were purchased from the same computer or mobile device, according to an IP address trace.

Tweeting with H.A.M.

When shown a photo of a Minnesota man known to have traveled to Syria in 2014, identified as H.A.M., he said he recognized him from Burnsville High School and heard rumors at his mosque that he had traveled to Syria. But a review of Ahmed's Twitter account shows a lengthy series of tweets between the two men from November 2013 through March 2014.

HAM "I love you for the sake of Allah akh."

Ahmed: "Lol my bro I Love you."

The two also discussed meeting at "the masjid" (a mosque) and needing to talk "somewhere that ain't hot."

First court appearance

Hamza Ahmed made an initial appearance Thursday in U.S. District Court in St. Paul, Minn. The U.S. Attorney's Office could not comment on the status of the three other men, citing the ongoing investigation.


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