MINNEAPOLIS (REUTERS) - US authorities have charged six Somali-American young men from Minnesota with planning to join ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) and fight for the militant group in Syria, the US attorney for Minnesota.
The six were part of a larger group of friends and relatives that had been conspiring for the past 10 months, many trying multiple times to leave the country, US prosecutors alleged on Monday.
The men were arrested Sunday as part of a yearlong FBI investigation into young men from the area trying to travel to join ISIS and there is no evidence they had plans to conduct an attack inside the United States, prosecutors said.
Dozens of people from the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, many of them young Somali-American men, have travelled or attempted to travel overseas to support Islamic State or al Shabaab, a Somalia-based militant group, since 2007, according to US prosecutors.
"We have a terror recruiting problem in Minnesota," US Attorney for Minnesota Andrew Luger told a news conference.
Zacharia Yusuf Abdurahman, 19, Adnan Farah, 19, Hanad Mustafe Musse, 19, and Guled Ali Omar, 20, were arrested in Minneapolis. Abdurahman Yasin Daud, 21, and Mohamed Abdihamid Farah, 21, were arrested in California after driving from Minneapolis to San Diego. All are US citizens.
Three of them had travelled to New York by bus with another man, Hamza Ahmed, in November, when they were stopped from boarding international flights with the intent of reaching Syria, prosecutors said.
Ahmed was indicted in February on charges of conspiring to support Islamic State and lying to federal agents investigating recruitment by militant groups.
The group met regularly to plan the trips, prosecutors said. One unidentified member had doubts, changed his mind and recorded their meetings, Luger said.
"They are not confused young men, they were not easily influenced," Luger said. "These were focused men who were intent on joining a terrorist organization by any means possible."
They received advice and encouragement from another group member, Abdi Nur, who has stayed in contact with them since he left the United States last year and joined ISIS in Syria, prosecutors said. Nur was charged in November.
The men arrested in Minnesota were to appear in US District Court in St. Paul on Monday afternoon, with the two arrested in San Diego due to appear in court there later.