Minneapolis - A man accused of helping send young men through a terrorist pipeline from Minnesota to Somalia was convicted Thursday on all five terrorism-related charges he faced, including one that could land him in prison for life.
The jury returned its verdict against Mahamud Said Omar after deliberating for about eight hours over two days. Chief US District Judge Michael Davis has not set a sentencing date.
Omar, 46, nodded quietly as an interpreter gave him the news. As he was being led from the courtroom, he held his hands up over his head and smiled at his brothers and other supporters.
His brothers declined comment after the verdict. But one of his defense attorneys, Jon Hopeman, said Omar will appeal. Hopeman said he has a list of issues he might raise on appeal, including his claim that prosecutors did not disclose all of Omar's phone calls that were secretly recorded by the FBI.
B Todd Jones, the US Attorney for Minnesota, was pleased with the verdict.
"There are some lines that you just cannot cross," Jones said. "One of those lines is, you cannot provide material support to a designated terrorist organisation such as al-Shabaab. That message should be crystal clear. If you choose to do that, there are some serious ramifications of that decision."
Omar, a mosque janitor, was the first man to stand trial in the government's investigation into what it says was the recruitment of more than 20 men who have left Minnesota since 2007 to join al-Shabaab, a US-designated terrorist group linked to al-Qaeda.
Al-Shabaab has been fight the fledgling UN-backed government in Somalia, which was backed by troops from neighbouring Ethiopia, who were seen by some Somalis as an invading force.
Prosecutors said the investigation is ongoing. They would not elaborate.
Prosecutors said during the trial that Omar helped some recruits from Minnesota's Somali community, which is the largest in the US, buy plane tickets to Somalia and gave others $1 000 to buy weapons while they were staying in an al-Shabaab safe house. Prosecutors said he also went to that safe house himself and stayed there about a week.
Assistant US Attorney John Docherty, one of the prosecutors who tried the case, said funnelling young men to the Horn of Africa, where some lost their lives and some took the lives of others, cannot be tolerated.
"We'll be very pleased if today's verdict plays any part in bringing that kind of behaviour to a stop, because it is the kind of thing that just cannot go on in this community," Docherty said Thursday.