US Attorney: Supervision of terror suspect no longer necessary

Federal prosecutors on Monday said they no longer object to ending the supervised release of a former Minnesota terror suspect.

Federal prosecutors on Monday said they no longer object to ending the supervised release of a former Minnesota terror suspect.

Abdifatah Yusuf Isse, 39, left Minnesota in 2007 for Somalia to fight for the terror group Al Shabaab, but returned to the U.S. when he became disillusioned with the group and cooperated with federal authorities.

In a court filing Monday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Winter wrote, "The Government does not object to early termination of Defendant’s supervised release." 

It is a reversal from six months ago, when prosecutors wrote that the U.S. government had "some concern" about the termination of supervised release and advocated for a "cautious approach" to get a more "fulsome track record" of his compliance.

Isse was supposed to remain on supervised release for 20 years, until 2035.

Isse was released from federal prison in 2015 and was turned over to Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE).

After he was released from ICE custody, court documents indicate his supervised probation was transferred to the Seattle, Washington area in 2017.

In 2019, he was found to be in violation of his supervised release because he helped his mother move to Ohio to be with his sister without formally requesting permission, according to court documents.

In February 2022 his supervised probation was transferred to the U.S. District Court in Portland, Maine, where he is believed to be living.

But unrestricted freedom could prove perilous for Isse.

Because he is a resident alien and not a U.S. citizen, Isse’s conviction on federal terrorism charges mean he could be removed from the U.S. and sent back to Somalia, a country he left during civil war when he was only 8 years old.

Former federal prosecutors believe he could be targeted for his cooperation with law enforcement.

Anders Folks, the former federal prosecutor in his case, told ABC News in 2015, that deporting Isse to Somalia would put "his life in jeopardy, and it could have a chilling effect on the U.S. having cooperation in terrorism cases in the future."

In a statement to FOX 9, an ICE spokesperson said the agency makes custody determinations on a case-by-case basis.

"ICE officers make associated decisions and apply prosecutorial discretion in a responsible manner, informed by their experience as law enforcement professionals and in a way that best protect the communities we serve," the ICE spokesperson said. 

His attorney, Paul Engh, who asked the court for his client's release from supervised release, declined to comment on the immigration issue.

Among the 20 men convicted in Minnesota of assisting Al Shabaab, Isse’s story is unique.

Isse testified he knew "nothing" about Al Shabaab but traveled to Somalia in 2007 after hearing stories of horrific atrocities committed by invading Ethiopian troops.

But he quickly became disillusioned with Al Shabaab. The so-called training camp he attended was a "deserted place" with "a bunch of trees" he testified.

Along with another man, Salah Osman Ahmed, they escaped the terror training camp and returned to the U.S. He was arrested in 2009.

Isse pled guilty in 2012 to providing material support for terrorism and was given a sentence of three years, far less than the 15 years called for in sentencing guidelines, because he cooperated with federal authorities and testified against his co-defendants.

His testimony at trial lead to the conviction of Mahamud Said Omar, a mosque janitor in Minneapolis who provided logistical support for Al Shabaab, including funneling cash and fighters from Minnesota.

The man who escaped the Al Shabaab training camp with Isse, Salah Osman Ahmed, was granted relief from supervised release in March 2022.

The decision to release Isse from supervised release still needs approval from Judge Michael J. Davis.

UPDATE: On Aug. 15, Judge Michael J. Davis granted Abdifatah Isse release from supervision and terminated proceedings in his case. His current immigration status is unclear. The U.S. Attorney has declined comment.