The FBI says Mahamud Said Omar, a Sufi Muslim from Minneapolis, helped buy weapons and recruit terrorists for al-Shabaab, an anti-government group sympathetic to al-Qaida seeking to overthrow the U.N.-backed government in Omar's native Somalia, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported Monday, when his trial in federal court was scheduled to begin.
Omar's family says the FBI has chosen Omar as a stand-in, lacking other suspects in a high-profile, 18-month investigation dubbed "Operation Rhino," and question how a man making just $800 a month could be financing terrorists.
"The FBI wanted to close this case. They don't have the real person, so they found my brother and wanted to close the case," said Abdullahi Omar. "What they're saying about him and what we know about him are completely different."
The family also says members have been targeted by al-Shabaab, which does not approve of the Sufi branch of Islam. The terror group has decimated Sufi mosques and has even gone so far as digging up the graves of Sufi clerics, including that of Omar's grandfather, the family said.
Federal prosecutors say Omar traveled to Somalia and was wired $3,600 by family in the United States to get married, but gave the money to terrorists. With federal investigators waiting at the airport to arrest him on his return to the United States, Omar -- without his new wife -- never got on the flight from Amsterdam and instead sought asylum in the Netherlands, which he was denied.
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