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Three Somali-Americans Sentenced in Minnesota for Plotting to Join Islamic State Terrorist Group

The harshest sentence was given to Zacharia Abdurahman, who got 10 years in prison

FILE - Militants of the Islamic State group hold up their weapons and wave flags on their vehicles in a convoy on a road leading to Iraq, while riding in Raqqa, Syria. VOA

Minnesota, Nov 14, 2016: A U.S. judge in Minnesota has given jail time to three Somali-Americans found guilty of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State, but rewarded two of them with lighter sentences for cooperating with the government.

The harshest sentence was given to Zacharia Abdurahman, who got 10 years in prison. Abdurahman pleaded guilty but did not cooperate with the U.S. government against his friends, who also plotted to join Islamic State.

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FILE - Zacharia Yusuf Abdurahman, VOA
FILE – Zacharia Yusuf Abdurahman, VOA

The prosecution wanted 15 years in prison for Abdurahman, who broke down in court. The judge, Michael Davis, made it clear that Abdurahman received the toughest sentence because he did not testify against his former co-conspirators.

Abdurahman was stopped at JFK International Airport in New York in 2014 while attempting to travel to Greece on his way to Syria to join Islamic State. The following year, he was involved in a second attempt to travel to Syria.

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Also sentenced Monday was Abdirazak Warsame and Abdullahi Yusuf, both of whom cooperated with the U.S. government. Warsame received 30 months in prison, while Yusuf was released for time served in prison — the 21 months he already had been in jail. Both testified against their former friends.

Warsame was accused of planning to travel first to Somalia and then to Syria. He also was accused of encouraging others to travel to Syria, including Yusuf.

FILE - Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame, VOA
FILE – Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame, VOA

The judge said he believed Warsame’s cooperation with authorities was a matter of convenience, while Yusuf’s cooperation was more believable. He said it wouldn’t make sense to send Yusuf to prison for longer because the government would miss a chance to help him. Davis said he hoped to see Yusuf rehabilitated.

Yusuf reportedly told the judge after the sentence was read, “I won’t let you down, your honor.” His family expressed relief after the sentencing.

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Minnesota prosecutor Andrew Luger said in a statement Monday, “The hard work of rehabilitating those who seek to engage in ideological violence must continue. Judge Davis recognized that fact today in his considered sentences for those defendants who cooperated with the government and have begun to disengage from ISIL’s violent ideology.”

Six other men are awaiting sentencing in the Islamic State-related terrorism case. Prosecutors have recommended the longest sentence — 40 years — for Guled Omar, one of three men who went on trial and was convicted by a jury.

On Sunday night, the parents of the defendants held prayers and a healing service at a mosque in Minneapolis, hoping for leniency from the judge. (VOA)

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Facebook, Twitter Urged to Do More to Police Hate on Sites

Twitter to soon release Snapchat like feature. VOA
Twitter to soon release Snapchat like feature. VOA

Tech giants Facebook, Twitter and Google are taking steps to police terrorists and hate groups on their sites, but more work needs to be done, the Simon Wiesenthal Center said Tuesday.

The organization released its annual digital terrorism and hate report card and gave a B-plus to Facebook, a B-minus to Twitter and a C-plus to Google.

Facebook spokeswoman Christine Chen said the company had no comment on the report. Representatives for Google and Twitter did not immediately return emails seeking comment.

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Facebook one of the most popular apps in US. Pixabay
Facebook one of the most popular apps in US. Pixabay

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the Wiesenthal Center’s associate dean, said Facebook in particular built “a recognition that bad folks might try to use their platform” as its business model. “There is plenty of material they haven’t dealt with to our satisfaction, but overall, especially in terms of hate, there’s zero tolerance,” Cooper said at a New York City news conference.

Rick Eaton, a senior researcher at the Wiesenthal Center, said hateful and violent posts on Instagram, which is part of Facebook, are quickly removed, but not before they can be widely shared.

He pointed to Instagram posts threatening terror attacks at the upcoming World Cup in Moscow. Another post promoted suicide attacks with the message, “You only die once. Why not make it martyrdom.”

Cooper said Twitter used to merit an F rating before it started cracking down on Islamic State tweets in 2016. He said the move came after testimony before a congressional committee revealed that “ISIS was delivering 200,000 tweets a day.”

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This photo shows Facebook launched on an iPhone, in North Andover, Mass., June 19, 2017. VOA

Cooper and Eaton said that as the big tech companies have gotten more aggressive in shutting down accounts that promote terrorism, racism and anti-Semitism, promoters of terrorism and hate have migrated to other sites such as, a Facebook lookalike that’s based in Russia.

There also are “alt-tech” sites like GoyFundMe, an alternative to GoFundMe, and BitChute, an alternative to Google-owned YouTube, Cooper said.

“If there’s an existing company that will give them a platform without looking too much at the content, they’ll use it,” he said. “But if not, they are attracted to those platforms that have basically no rules.”

The Los Angeles-based Wiesenthal Center is dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism, hate, and terrorism. (VOA)