Recently unsealed case records revealed that a Minnesota woman charged in 2014 with supporting al-Shabab is helping the federal government in the case against a network of women who have sent thousands of dollars to an overseas organization that the United States said is involved in terrorism.
Amina Mohamud Esse pleaded guilty in November 2014 to the charge, according to the recently unsealed records. The Associated Press reports that Esse had sent approximately $500 overseas to a woman in Kenya with the knowledge that the funds would eventually find their way to al-Shabab.
In 2008, al-Shabab was designated a terrorist group by the United States. In 2012, leaders of al-Shabab and al-Qaeda announced that the two groups were merging.
The U.S. District Court of Minnesota kept the proceedings of Esse’s case private because District Attorney Andrew Luger, who recently held an “Islamophobia” panel discussion in St. Cloud, worried that divulging details of Esse’s charges along with her cooperation with the federal government could impede the case against some of the online group’s masterminds, who were also arrested in 2014.
A court filing said, “al-Shabab members and associates would obviously not accept or trust the defendant if they knew she had been charged and was cooperating with the FBI.”
Esse is listed among the government’s scheduled witnesses for the trial against two other women, Muna Osman Jama and Hinda Osman Dhirane. Their trial is set to begin in Virginia’s U.S. District Court on July 11th. Jama and Dhirane were arrested in June 2014 and were charged with 20 counts of providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization. Allegedly, Jama sent more than $3,300 to help al-Shabab.
Chat logs between Esse and Jama submitted by the federal government before the trial show the two women discussing online how to recruit more women to give money to their cause.
Esse was put on probation and banned from traveling outside of Minnesota in exchange for her guilty plea and for providing information against the other women, according to court records. She was also required to submit for a mental health evaluation.
According to ABC News, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Minnesota declined to comment.
In recent years, Minnesota has had a number of cases that involved terrorism recruitment and support. Minnesota is now home to the largest Somali population outside of Somalia. More than 20 young men have left the state since 2007 to join al-Shabab in Somalia. Another dozen or so men have left Minnesota to join militants in Syria.
Updated 4:00pm 7/3/2016