Experts, Al-Shabab members testify in trial

Tuesday marked the beginning of the second week in the trial against Mahamud Said Omar.

Two expert witnesses and two former al-Shabab members testified Tuesday in the trial of a Minneapolis man on the stand for aiding terrorism group al-Shabab.

Mahamud Said Omar is charged with helping a group of men travel to Somalia in November 2008 to join al-Shabab. The group includes two former University of Minnesota students; both are presumed dead.

Altogether, more than 20 men have left Minneapolis for Somalia since 2007. Of 18 men charged in the FBI’s investigation, Omar is the only one to go to trial so far.

Salah Osman Ahmed testified that he and Omar stayed at the same safe house in Merca, Somalia. He said Omar gave the woman who ran the house $300 for expenses as well as money to buy AK-47s for two fighters, which he said cost about $500 each, the Associated Press reported.

Omar’s defense asked Ahmed about his deal with the U.S. government after he agreed to plead guilty in 2009.

The 29-year-old confirmed he signed an agreement in which the government could potentially recommend a 63- to 70-month sentence instead of the life sentence he faced before.

Ahmed told the defense he was interviewed 37 times before saying Omar gave money and that he never personally saw Omar give money.

After Ahmed’s testimony, Chief U.S. District Judge Michael Davis requested electronic monitoring of Ahmed, as well as a passport restriction. He said Ahmed is forbidden to leave Minnesota without the judge’s permission.

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives special agent Martin Siebenaler also testified. He brought in an unloaded AK-47 to show the weapon’s specifications to the courtroom.

Siebenaler said three witnesses told him the automatic weapon was similar to the ones they owned in Somalia.

FBI Special Agent Karie Gibson testified about the methods of payment the men used to travel to Somalia.

Kamal Said Hassan, another former al-Shabab “foot soldier,” began his testimony saying that in 2007 he and other Minnesota men attended the mosque used for their secret meetings to discuss their return trip to Somalia.

Leaders of the mosque and the men’s families were not aware of the meetings.

Hassan said he knew Omar was a janitor at the mosque and that Omar had known Hassan for years through Hassan’s family.

Hassan’s testimony will continue Wednesday.