Former San Diegan pleads guilty to Islamic State terrorism case

A former San Diego man pleaded guilty on Friday to helping finance the Islamic State’s campaign of terror, including paying for the overseas travel of another San Diegan, believed to be the first U.S. citizen killed while ‘he was fighting for the group in Syria in 2014.

Abdullahi Ahmed Abdullahi pleaded guilty to two counts relating to providing material support to terrorists. In the plea deal, he admitted to participating in a scheme to provide $ 4,650 to a group of comrades knowing it would be used to plan or carry out terrorist activity in Syria, “including killing, kidnapping and maiming. ” people.

The case opened a window into ISIS’s intensive recruitment efforts targeting Westerners, radicalizing them not only by supporting the group’s cause, but by taking more direct action by traveling abroad to take up arms. in violent play for a caliphate.

Abdullahi, who had once resided in San Diego, was living in Edmonton, Canada, in November 2013 when three of his cousins ​​traveled from there to Turkey and then Syria to join the Islamic State, according to an account. detailed the crime in the plea agreement.

He helped almost immediately by withdrawing about $ 2,800 Canadian dollars from one of the cousins’ bank accounts in Canada and sending him to Syria.

Abdullahi, using the nickname “Phish”, then emailed the cousin saying that he had heard that the trio had succeeded in killing their enemies on the battlefield and that another was a good marksman. ‘elite.

Correspondence from Syria urged Abdullahi to come and fight alongside them, and also to provide more funds for another cousin in the United States to send him to fight. To do this, Abdullahi was encouraged to steal and commit fraud against “kuffar” – or non-Muslims – believing that such criminal activity was permitted by Islamic law.

So, on January 9, 2014, Abdullahi robbed a jewelry store in Edmonton. But he explained in a subsequent email to those in Syria that funds would be slow to arrive as he struggled to pledge the stolen jewelry.

Douglas McAuthur McCain, in a 2008 photo from the Sheriff’s Office in Hennepin County, Minnesota. McCain became the first American to die fighting for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria in 2014.


He eventually wired around $ 3,000 to someone in San Diego County with instructions on how to use the money to buy plane tickets for Douglas McCain, a former San Diego City College student, and cousin, Hanad Mohallim, to join the fight.

The two left for Turkey on March 9, 2014 – McCain from San Diego and Mohallim from Minneapolis. Then they went to Syria, “where they joined ISIS and engaged in armed fighting to take control of the territories and civilian populations in Syria on behalf of ISIS,” the plea says. .

In an email, Abdullahi pledged to send “every penny that[‘] peach [his] pocket ”to the effort. He later got someone in Dubai to wire around $ 1,400 to Turkey to further support the foreign fighters.

Months later, in August, McCain was killed fighting the forces of the Free Syrian Army; he was considered the first American citizen who became an ISIS fighter to die. Mohallim and the first three who left for Syria were killed in November of the same year.

After McCain’s death, the FBI began investigating his brother, Marchello McCain, living in east San Diego, who had been included in the email correspondence and spoke of trying to reach others in Syria. .

The younger brother was ultimately sentenced to 10 years in prison for lying to the FBI about his brother, as well as being a criminal in possession of firearms. Marchello McCain’s social media account had included videos of him practicing marksmanship at a shooting range weeks before his older brother left. A 2005 conviction in Minnesota prevented him from owning firearms.

Abdullahi was arrested in Canada in connection with the armed robbery in 2017 and extradited to San Diego on the terrorism indictment in 2019.

The prosecution and defense recommend a 20-year prison term when sentenced next year. He could also be ordered to pay up to $ 40,000 in restitution to the owner of the Edmonton jewelry store, according to the plea deal.

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