Two women were convicted today of terrorism crimes related to their material support of al-Shabaab, a designated foreign terrorist organization.
Muna Osman Jama, 36, of Reston, and Hinda Osman Dhirane, 46, of Kent, Washington, were found guilty of conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, and providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization after a bench trial in front of U.S. District Judge Anthony J. Trenga.
(VICE founder Suroosh Alvi travels to Somalia, home to one of the world’s most brutal terrorist groups, to document the rise of al Shabaab and their relentless reign of terror across the country. Courtesy of VICE News and YouTube)
“Providing material support to foreign terrorist organizations is a very serious crime,” said Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.
“These women funneled money to a terrorist organization which was conducting a violent insurgency campaign in Somalia. National security is the top priority in this office and we will continue to work closely with our law enforcement partners to investigate and prosecute those who provide material support to terrorists.”
“In addition to money they transferred in direct support of al-Shabaab, these subjects recruited, solicited, and advised an online group located in multiple countries as to how and where to transfer funds to this terrorist organization,” said Paul M. Abbate, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.
“In coordination of the group, these subjects would then track and facilitate donations to ensure the money was received by their co-conspirators located in Nairobi and Somaliland. Today’s guilty verdicts send a message that facilitation of financial support to a designated terrorist organization equates to terrorist activity itself.”
According to court records and evidence presented at trial, Jama and Dhirane sent money to financiers of al-Shabaab in Somalia and Kenya, which they referred to respectively as the “Hargeisa side” and the “Nairobi side.”
The defendants also organized what was called a “Group of Fifteen,” which included women from Somalia, Kenya, Egypt, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and Canada, as well as Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The “Group of Fifteen” met regularly in a private chatroom that Jama established to organize and track monthly payment of money to the “Hargeisa side,” which was used to finance al-Shabaab military operations in the Golis Mountains in northern Somalia, and the “Nairobi side,” which was used to fund two al-Shabaab safehouses.
One of the safehouses was used by al-Shabaab to store weapons and to prepare for attacks. The other was used to treat al-Shabaab fighters who had been wounded in battle.
A substantial part of the government’s case consisted of recorded telephone calls and other communications among the “Group of Fifteen.”
These recordings demonstrated that the women had close connections with al-Shabaab leadership and were privy to non-public, inside information concerning al-Shabaab activities.
Jama and Dhirane were recorded as they laughed as the carnage at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi was still taking place.
Dhirane and co-conspirator were also recorded as they laughed at the Boston Marathon Bombing before it became known who committed the attack.
Jama and Dhirane each face a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison when sentenced on January 19, 2017. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Paul M. Abbate, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office; and Jay S. Tabb, Jr., Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Seattle Field Office, made the announcement after the verdict was announced.
Assistant U.S. Attorney James P. Gillis and Trial Attorney Danya E. Atiyeh of the Counterterrorism Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division are prosecuting the case. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle also provided assistance.
This case was investigated by the FBI’s Washington, D.C. and Seattle Field Offices. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs also played an essential role in coordinating the arrests and searches with foreign authorities.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.