San Diego Men Accused Of Aiding Somali Terrorists
Federal agents arrested three San Diego men this week, they are accused of providing aid to terrorists. Al Shabab is a group based in Somalia - it's listed by the U.S. government as a terrorist group with links to al-Qaida. KPBS Investigative reporter Amita Sharma shares details of the case that were revealed in the unsealed indictment.
KPBS Investigative Reporter Amita Sharma
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MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm Maureen Cavanaugh and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. Three San Diego residents are being held on federal charges of sending money and other support to al-Shabab. That's a Somali group designated by the U.S. as a terrorist organization with ties to al Qaeda. KPBS investigative reporter Amita Sharma has been following this story.
AMITA SHARMA: Good morning Maureen.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So who are these men who are being held on charges of supporting al-Shabab.
AMITA SHARMA: The men are Basaaly Moalin , Mohamed Mohamud Mohamud, and Issa Doreh. Moalin is a cab driver and a naturalized US citizen who was actually born in Somalia. Mohamud is a local Imam who has been leading prayer services in a mosque in City Heights for ten years. Issa Doreh is a long-time San Diego resident who actually worked for Shidaal Express which was a money transfer business and it is mentioned in the indictment.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: All three of these men have pleaded not guilty to these federal charges what do prosecutors say that they did.
AMITA SHARMA: Federal prosecutors say that from late 2007, based on phone intercepts from the FBI, Moalin, the cab driver was in contact with a guy named Aden Ayro, who was a military leader in Somalia. One of the conversations cited in the indictment quotes Aden telling Moalin "It's time to finance the jihad." Following that call, Moalin allegedly called Doreh, at Shidaal express, and said one dollar per day is what we need for our forces. The FBI obtained Shidaal express records, which by the way, Shidaal express no longer exists, for 2008, and it shows that the money transfers were there from San Diego to Somalia. The indictment says that the three men, the Imam, Moalin, the cabdriver, and Issa Doreh coordinated these money transfers. They're small amounts, a thousand here, two thousand there, five thousand there. Moalin is further charged with providing a home that he still owns in Somalia as sort of a kill house for al-Shabab forces.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, which sounds, since you were talking about 2007, 2008, and a money express service that doesn't even exist anymore. This has been a long-term investigation apparently.
AMITA SHARMA: It has been a long term investigation. Yeah. And we -- I think we're just scratching the surface here. There's a lot that we don't know.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, all of these men were residents of San Diego? I think you went to the local mosque where one of the accused was an Imam. Is there any statement made by the people in the mosque?
AMITA SHARMA: Well, everyone at the mosque referred us to the leadership. And there was a guy by the name of Bashir who's the secretary. He said he's not willing to talk right now, but he will make a statement tomorrow after the detention hearings for the three men. He did, however, say that -- I think he did speak to the union tribune yesterday, and he basically said that the community is shocked, and you know, that the Imam has been here for a long time. We tried to talk to other people. I probably approached 12 to 15 people yesterday. And nobody wanted to talk. Some said they didn't know English, and others just said no no no. You've got to talk to the leadership here.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Just to be clear, al-Shabab is a terrorist organization in Somalia. And I don't believe the United States is not accusing al-Shabab of planning terrorist attacks against the United States; is that correct?
AMITA SHARMA: No. But the worry is that the support that al-Shabab has within the United States and its affiliation with al Qaeda could be turned around on the United States for domestic attacks.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now what is supposed to happen tomorrow at the detention hearing that you just mentioned.
AMITA SHARMA: Well, tomorrow, we're gonna learn more about these three men. Who they are, what their relationship is to one another, how -- their immigration status, their ties to the community. There's all of this information is supposed to come out tomorrow.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Amita, I want to thank you so much for speaking with us.
AMITA SHARMA: Thank you. Maureen.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I've been speaking with KPBS investigative reporter Amita Sharma. You're listening to These Days on KPBS.