Jury hears another witness in terror trial

One of the 18 men charged by the FBI testified Wednesday.

Derek Wetmore

A federal court heard the continued testimony of a Plymouth, Minn., man Wednesday in the trial of a local man charged with assisting Somali terrorist group al-Shabab.

Kamal Said Hassan is the prosecution’s 13th witness in the case against Mahamud Said Omar.

Omar is charged with helping a group of men travel to Somalia in November 2008 to fight Ethiopian forces. He’s the first man to go to trial of the 18 men charged in the FBI’s investigation. Omar faces five charges: three counts of conspiracy and two counts of aiding terrorists.

On Wednesday, Hassan said he was recruited to join al-Shabab through a series of meetings at restaurants and at the Minneapolis mosque Abubakar Islamic Center.

Chief U.S. District Judge Michael Davis interrupted the prosecution and asked his own series of questions.

He wanted to know — and said the jury had a right to know — what went on at these secret meetings.

Hassan said a man named Salah Osman Ahmed, who has also testified in the trial, convinced him in a meeting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan that it was Hassan’s duty as a Somali and as a Muslim to leave for Somalia and fight the Ethiopians.

Davis seemed incredulous that one conversation could convince a man to travel around the world to kill for radical beliefs.

Hassan explained that he decided based on additional circumstances, such as the Somali conflict that was abuzz in Minneapolis at the time. He also had a fiancée that was then living in Mogadishu and expressed interest in adventure and travel.

Each time he attended a meeting, he said, his motivation to travel and fight grew.

Hassan said he lied to his parents about his reason for traveling because if they knew he was going to Somalia, they wouldn’t have allowed it. He said he traveled to Somalia to join al-Shabab anyway and partook in training camps of about 100 recruits learning to fight and receiving Islam lessons.