Minnesota teen pleads guilty to conspiring to support ISIS

MINNEAPOLIS (REUTERS) - A Somali-American teenager who was stopped at a Minnesota airport as he sought to fly to Turkey last year pleaded guilty in federal court on Thursday to conspiring to support the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Abdullahi Mohamud Yusuf, 18, was stopped by FBI agents at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in late May with a passport he had applied for on an expedited basis the previous month, prosecutors said.

Yusuf was charged in November with conspiring to support ISIS and has been staying at a halfway house. He pleaded guilty before US District Chief Judge Michael Davis and was ordered released on bond.

The Minneapolis area is home to a large population of Somali expatriates. US authorities have said dozens of young Somali-Americans have left the area since 2007 to join al Shabaab, an al Qaeda affiliate based in Somalia.

Last summer, FBI officials said they had begun tracking a trickle of Somali-Americans from the Minneapolis area to Syria in general and to ISIS-held areas in particular.

When he applied for the passport, Yusuf said he planned to go to Turkey, but could not name travel companions, hotels or identify a friend from Turkey he said he had met recently on Facebook, according to a criminal complaint.

Yusuf used the passport to open a checking account where he deposited US$1,500 (S$2,033) on May 23, the complaint said. The next day, he bought a ticket to Istanbul, leaving four days later.

His parents did not know about the passport, the money or the travel plans, the complaint said.

Prosecutors said Yusuf used the same debit card to buy his ticket as a man who left Minnesota for Turkey in March 2014 and exchanged calls and text messages with him in the days before he tried to leave. They did not identify the man.

A sentencing date has not been set.

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