Federal courts

U.S. citizen pleads guilty to supporting al-Qaida splinter groups in Miami FBI probe

 

Gufran Ahmed Kauser Mohammed, 31, will be sentenced on his conspiracy conviction in Miami federal court in October.

jweaver@MiamiHerald.com

A naturalized U.S. citizen who had once lived in California faces up to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty Thursday in Miami to providing thousands of dollars in material support to three U.S.-designated terrorist organizations operating under al-Qaida.

Gufran Ahmed Kauser Mohammed, 31, will be sentenced on his conspiracy conviction in Miami federal court in October.

Mohammed was arrested last year in a Miami-based terrorism investigation led by an FBI employee, who engaged him and a co-defendant, Mohamed Hussein Said, 26, in an online, undercover financial scheme.

Mohammed and Said were charged with conspiring to provide a combined total of about $25,000 to the al-Qaida splinter groups. Both defendants were ordered held without bond. Said, who pleaded not guilty, is still set for trial next year.

The Miami FBI employee posed as a brother and a sister who supported al-Qaida as a way to communicate in an Internet chat room with the two men overseas. The men were accused of plotting to finance the terrorist group's battles in Syria and Somalia, according to an indictment.

The “online covert employee” assumed the role of the brother, saying he was an al-Qaida fighter. Then he switched to playing the sister, saying she could help collect money for the terrorist group.

In 2012, the FBI employee first engaged Mohammed in Saudi Arabia and later Said in Kenya.

Mohammed, who once had lived in California, and Said, who had resided in Mombasa, were arrested in Saudi Arabia and brought to Miami by FBI agents.

According to the indictment, Mohammed and Said met in Saudi Arabia in May 2011 and agreed to provide financial and other resources to an al-Qaida affiliate, al-Shabaab, which was seeking to overthrow the U.S.-backed transitional government in Somalia.

Through September of that year, Mohammed allegedly wired Said more than $11,000 via Western Union to back al-Shabaab, the indictment said.

In April 2012, the FBI undercover employee established online contact with Mohammed, according to the indictment. Mohammed arranged to send a series of Western Union wire transfers totaling more than $9,000 through November to the FBI employee. The funds were intended for another al-Qaida affiliate, the Nusra Front, which is fighting the government of President Bashar Assad in Syria.

Last December, Mohammed also met in person with a purported associate of the FBI undercover employee and gave him 14,400 Saudi Arabian riyals, worth about $3,800, which also was meant to support the Nusra Front, the indictment said.

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