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Somalis Receive Federal Prison Terms For Sending Money To Al-Shabab From San Diego

Mohamed Mohamud and Issa Doreh are shown in this 2010 courtroom drawing by Kr...

Photo by Krentz Johnson

Above: Mohamed Mohamud and Issa Doreh are shown in this 2010 courtroom drawing by Krentz Johnson.

A San Diego federal judge sentenced three local men to prison Monday for raising money for the terror group al-Shabab which he described as responsible for “murder, mayhem and bombings” in East Africa.

The Somali immigrants were convicted earlier this year of sending money to al-Shabab, an extremist Islamist group seeking the overthrow of Somali's weak government.

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Miller sentenced Somali immigrants — Basaaly Moalin, Mohamed Mohamud and Issa Doreh — to 18, 14 and 10 years in federal prison respectively.

The men, along with a fourth man, were convicted earlier this year of sending money to al-Shabab, an extremist Islamist group seeking the overthrow of Somali's weak government. The organization is blamed for beheadings, enlisting boys to fight and strong-arming girls into marriage. The group was responsible for the attack on the Westgate mall in Nairobi, which claimed 70 victims in September.

The case against the San Diego men shocked many in the city's large Somali community. Many believed the government was guilty of criminalizing Somali immigrants and suspected that the case was manufactured. Some of those feelings stemmed from the prominence of the accused men. Mohamud was an imam and Doreh was a longtime San Diego resident who taught English classes.

The government's case, however, rested on scores of wiretaps.

FBI intercepts indicated San Diego cab driver Moalin had direct contact with al-Shabab founder and leader Aden Hashi Ayrow before Ayrow was killed in a 2008 U.S. strike. Prior to his death, Ayrow complained over the phone to Moalin that he didn't have money for bullets to "shoot the enemy."

Moalin told Ayrow he would try to "send something."

Government intercepts later captured Moalin talking to City Heights Imam Mohamud about raising money for al-Shabab. Longtime San Diego resident Issa Doreh helped the two men send the money through a local money-transferring business where he worked.

At his sentencing, Moalin pleaded for leniency.

Moalin told Judge Miller about being attacked by a government militia and left for dead during the onset of Somalia’s civil war. The father of five worried aloud about the effect of a lengthy sentence on his cancer-stricken wife and five children who remain in Somalia. Moalin said he had done extensive charitable work including helping to educate young girls. He said he hates al-Shabab.

"I love America," Moalin said.

Judge Miller said he didn’t doubt Moalin had been tragically scarred by Somalia’s civil war and cast him as a man capable of "both virtue and collaborating with terrorism."

"Mr. Moalin plotted and planned financial support by reaching out to others to raise funds for al-Shabab," Judge Miller said. "In short, he was an operations officer. He was al-Shabab's contact and advocate in this region here."

Just last week, Miller denied a motion for a new trial. The defendants had claimed the controversial National Security Agency surveillance dragnet violated their rights. The case against the men was triggered when the NSA spotted a San Diego phone number from its database of all domestic phone calls made to suspicious sources outside the U.S.


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Photo of Amita Sharma

Amita Sharma
Investigative Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksAs an investigative reporter for KPBS, I've helped expose political scandals and dug into intractable issues like sex trafficking. I've raised tough questions about how government treats foster kids. I've spotlighted the problem of pollution in poor neighborhoods. And I've chronicled corporate mistakes and how the public sometimes ends up paying for them.

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