Ohio Man Who Trained in Syria Charged With Planning ‘Act of Terrorism’ in U.S.

Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud, left, during a February hearing in Columbus, Ohio, to set bond on charges of money laundering and providing support for terrorism. (PHOTO CREDIT: Andrew Welsh-Huggins/Associated Press)
Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud, left, during a February hearing in Columbus, Ohio, to set bond on charges of money laundering and providing support for terrorism. (PHOTO CREDIT: Andrew Welsh-Huggins/Associated Press)

An Ohio man who trained with a terrorist group in Syria was accused by federal prosecutors on Thursday of returning to the United States with the goal of mounting an attack at home, the first example of a pattern that counterterrorism officials have long feared.

Officials said that the man, Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud, 23, a naturalized American citizen whose brother was killed fighting in Syria, spoke of wanting to attack a military facility or a prison in the United States.

A cleric in Syria told Mr. Mohamud when his training was complete that he should not join the fighting there but go home and “carry out an act of terrorism,” the federal indictment said. The indictment did not clarify whether the cleric was affiliated with the Islamic State, also called ISIS or ISIL, the Nusra Front, or another terrorist group in Syria.

“Mohamud talked about doing something big in the United States,” the indictment said. “He wanted to go to a military base in Texas and kill three or four American soldiers execution style.”

Despite the alleged statements about his desire to carry out an attack, the indictment gives no indication that Mr. Mohamud did more than talk about it. At least for now, he has been charged with offering material support to a designated terrorist group, the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s branch in Syria, but not with plotting a specific attack.

The F.B.I. has tracked about 200 Americans leaving for Syria since fighting began there in 2011, although that group includes some who intended to perform humanitarian work and women who wanted to marry fighters for militant groups. Officials have said they try to identify those traveling to Syria in part out of concern that they might re-enter the United States and plot attacks here.

Americans charged with trying to travel to Syria to fight include immigrants from several countries and American-born converts to Islam, ranging in age from early teens to late 40s. The largest group, like Mr. Mohamud, is Somali-Americans.

J. M. Berger, a terrorism expert and the co-author of a new book on the self-described Islamic State, said Mr. Mohamud appeared to be the first American accused of returning from Syria with directions to attack inside the United States.

According to his lawyer in Columbus, Sam Shamansky, Mr. Mohamud was born in Somalia and was an infant when his family emigrated. The family moved to Columbus in about 1998, he said. Mr. Mohamud graduated from high school and worked in a warehouse, among other jobs. His only prior criminal record was for a minor theft charge, the lawyer said.

At a house listed as Mr. Mohamud’s residence, on a street crowded with white duplexes on the West Side of Columbus, a woman wearing a blue head scarf answered the door on Thursday evening. She declined to answer questions and referred a reporter to the lawyer.

Mr. Mohamud is one of three children, Mr. Shamansky said. A sister is currently in college. Mr. Mohamud’s brother, Aden, left the United States in May 2013 and became a fighter with the Nusra Front in August 2013, the indictment said.

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SOURCE: NY Times, Scott Shane