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Local Somalis Doubt Fed’s Terror Support Case Against Four San Diegans


Aired 12/2/10

Despite scores of FBI intercepts, many local Somalis think the government's case four area San Diegans is fabricated and believe their community remains caught in the crosshairs of 9/11.

— Despite scores of FBI intercepts, many local Somalis think the government's case against four area San Diegans is fabricated and believe their community remains caught in the crosshairs of 9/11.

"There's no Somali that I know today who supports al-Shabab," said Mohamed Mohamed, a local Somali college student.

Nima Ali Yusuf's family gather around her defense attorney after a hearing in...
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Above: Nima Ali Yusuf's family gather around her defense attorney after a hearing in November 2010.

But in court papers, federal prosecutors say at least one of the accused men -- Basaaly Moalin -- had ties with top-ranking al-Shabab figures including Ayden Hashi Ayrow, the founder of al-Shabab which is trying to topple the weak central government in Somalia.

In April 2008, from Somalia, Ayrow complained over the phone to San Diego cabdriver Basaaly Moalin that he didn't have money for bullets to "shoot the enemy," according to FBI intercepts.

Moalin assured Ayrow, he would try his best to "send something."

Masjid Al-Ansar, a mosque located in City Heights, is where Mohamed Mohamed M...
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Above: Masjid Al-Ansar, a mosque located in City Heights, is where Mohamed Mohamed Mohamud, one of the three men accused of supporting Somali terrorists, has led prayer services during the past 10 years.

Days later, Moalin called the imam Mohamed Mohamud at a mosque in City Heights. Again according to FBI intercepts, the two men discussed fundraising for al-Shabab. At one point, the imam told Moalin, "There are many men who are saying 'we will give contribution now.'"

Federal prosecutors say Moalin, the imam, and long-time San Diego resident Issa Doreh, raised thousands of dollars for al-Shabab. The government claims Doreh helped send the money through Shidaal Express, a local money transfer business where he worked. Prosecutors say he even waived bank fees.

"He was a helpful man," said Bashir Hassan, who is a local Somali and has known Doreh for almost two decades. "He used to teach people writing and reading. He used to help people with literacy, writing and reading."

The government has also accused a local woman Nima Ali Yusuf of providing money and personnel to al-Shabaab. Even though dozens of pages of the intercepts and other evidence against the four have been made public, local Somalis aren't buying the government's case, especially against the imam.

College student Yusuf Ali questions how the Imam, who counseled the community's youth on the importance of education and Islam, could support al-Shabaab -- a brutal group infamous for cutting off people's hands and beheadings.

"He was my mentor. He used to tell me, `stay in school, stay away from drugs, study.' He was teaching me my religion. He never taught me any violence. I was with him for 10 years. I never saw him doing that stuff."

When asked if he thought the government was lying, Ali said, "Yeah, I do."

Edgar Hopida of the Council on American-Islamic Relations says past terrorism cases have fostered that perception. He says the government has accused other American Muslims of having ties to violent Islamist groups but ends up with minor immigration violation convictions.

"So when they saw this come about with one of their local leaders, they saw it as `oh no, here we go again,'" Hopida said.

Many Somalis believe the government is specifically targeting their community.

"There's a feeling that there's an undue focus on the Somali community which is unfounded, because until now, there's really been no wrongdoing in the community," said Bob Montgomery who runs the International Rescue Committee in San Diego. "People are just struggling to rebuild their lives and all have fled the same terrorism that al-Shabab is doing now."

The imam's defense attorney Mahir Sherif says the government is criminalizing all Muslims.

"I think Islamic giving, because that's part of the religion, has given difficulties to the government because they don't know how to deal with this," Sherif said. "'How can we stop Muslims from giving money? Because we really can't attack their religion directly because that would blow up in our face.' And I think these are politically motivated cases because really the government I don't think wants Muslims to give."

Some of the government's evidence against the men includes the banking records from the now defunct money transfer business Shidaal Express. Even so, Bashir Hassan says he believes federal prosecutors need to understand that most Somalis here regularly send money to their homeland.

"People are starving," Hassan said. "People don't have food to eat. So if you have some extra bucks, you better send them so they can survive. So sending money is something routine to our community."

While that same community is watching the government's case with a skeptical eye, Hassan says there is still confidence in American justice.

"They believe the truth will prevail and these people will get back their freedom," Hassan said.

The U.S. Attorney's office declined comment.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | December 2, 2010 at 7:48 a.m. ― 6 years, 2 months ago

Well it wouldn't be the first time the Feds have erred in post September 11th "terror" related cases. A number of years ago, a recall a Somali cabdriver downtown who was trying to get my attention about something (I forget what) and when I finally replied, he told me that he initially thought I was purposely ignoring him because I was a "racist" when in fact I did not realize he was calling out to me. Perhaps this is the kind of thing the Somali community perceives (rightly or wrongly) from the rest of us? So it is up to us to understand this and change it. I just got through reading some of the Nativist rants on this story on signonsandiego. It is truly amazing what some low-self esteem losers will say about others different than us in cowardly anonymity.

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Avatar for user 'randolphslinky'

randolphslinky | December 2, 2010 at 8:45 a.m. ― 6 years, 2 months ago

Of course they're all innocent. It's the Jews and the Christians who are the dangerous ones. Why do we have increased airport security, and constant threats made against our nation? Why it's the Christians and Jews of course, every time you hear of a terrorist threat it's either a Jew or a Christian once again scheming and planning some dubious plot. Poor Muslims, they get such a bad rap.

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Avatar for user 'samali'

samali | December 17, 2010 at 9:02 p.m. ― 6 years, 2 months ago

I, being a longtime San Diego resident of Somali origin, have been following this story closely.I personal knew Issa Doreh for more than a decade and I am confused as to how he is has been involved in all this. Doreh was a man who loved the western education system and he would advice all the Somali youth to benefit the opportunity which they were given. He himself finished several degrees from what I remembered, one was in computer science from SDSU and the other was from somewhere else.
I remember how Mr. Doreh once told me after 9/11 terrorist attacks that such an act was not permitted in islam and that whoever was behind it was working for the devil. I have witnessed him several other times where he condemned extremism. So, I am little confused about his arrest, I hope that he gets a fair trail.

With that said, I also applaud the government for their long investigation which was started in 2007; this definitely shows that they were doing their homework and that nothing was rushed. In addition to this, I would also like to thank them for reaching out to the Somali community leaders.

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