Minneapolis man charged in federal court for keeping hostages for ransom in Somalia

A Minneapolis man is facing federal kidnapping charges for keeping hostages for ransom in Somalia.  

Prosecutors say it stems back to a high-profile incident from 2012 where an American journalist was one of the victims.

Abdi Hassan made an initial federal court appearance Thursday morning in downtown Minneapolis. The U.S. Marshal’s Office will soon extradite him back to New York where this case is being prosecuted.

Hassan has lived in Minneapolis for nearly two decades, but he also claims to work for the Somali government.

The indictment, filed late last month in New York, accuses Abdi Hassan, along with other co-conspirators, of kidnapping freelance journalist Michael Scott Moore and other victims in January 2012 near Galkayo, Somalia.

According to Moore’s website, he was in the country on a reporting trip and was held hostage for more than two years.

At one point, Hassan and others were accused of demanding $20 million from Moore’s family members.

The court documents say the men threatened the journalist. If he didn’t comply, they would turn him over to the terror group Al-Shabab.

Moore details the experience in a book called “The Desert and the Sea.”

Hassan is also accused of taking hostages off fishing vessels in Somalia.

“I know him and his character that he’s a peaceful man, not a man who takes hostages,” said Omar Jamal, a family friend and a Twin Cities activist. “He’s very peaceful. Family man.”

Jamal attended Hassan’s hearing Thursday morning in Minneapolis where the judge ordered Hassan’s removal back to New York.

Jamal says Hassan has lived in Minneapolis for nearly 20 years with his family and owns a small business.

According to the indictment, Hassan says he’s a Minister of the Interior for a region in Somalia and was helping the government combat terrorism and piracy.

“He was trying to help the situation,” Jamal added. “He’s not the kind of person, he’s not a violent person, he’s not an extremist, he’s a good person.”

Moore was eventually released from captivity and identified Hassan from a lineup. Hassan told prosecutors his role in working for the Somali Government was to release hostages.

Hassan was born in Somalia, but is a naturalized U.S. citizen.