GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Three Lansing men arrested at the Gerald Ford International Airport have been charged with conspiracy to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, following an investigation by the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force.
Muse Abdikadir Muse, 23, was arrested Monday, Jan. 21, 2019, after he checked in to fly to Mogadishu, Somalia. Mohamud Abdikadir Muse, 20, and Mohamad Salat Haji, 26, were also arrested in the terminal. All three of the men are U.S. citizens who were born in Kenya and lived in Lansing. The Muses are brothers. Haji is their brother-in-law.
If convicted of the conspiracy charges, each of the men could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison.
Federal investigators accused the three of exchanging online messages in which they discussed their desire to join the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, also known as ISIS. Investigators said included in those messages were discussions about the desire to kill non-believers and potentially use a car to do so here in the U.S. if they couldn't fly overseas.
On the day of the arrest, Mohamud Muse and Mohamed Haji drove Muse Muse to the airport. According to court documents, the other two planned to join him later.
“There was a goal towards a goal of terrorism,” said Mike McDaniel, associate dean at Western Michigan University Cooley Law School and a former U.S. Department of Defense deputy secretary and homeland and national security expert.
“One of primary tools that counter terrorism experts and officials in the U.S. have in their toolbox is the use of materials support to terrorism statute,” McDaniel said.
According to court paperwork, the Facebook account belonging to Mohamud Muse came to the attention of the FBI based on material posted on the publicly viewable pages in April 2016. Investigators said the Facebook page contained a number of photos, videos and statements described by special agents as “violent and extremist propaganda.”
An undercover FBI employee posing as an ISIS recruiter started communicating with Muhamud Muse through the account in June 2017, and the former Nebraska resident said he wanted to join ISIS in Syria and “planned to die with a gun in his hand fighting," according to the court document.
Also according to the complaint, Mohamud Muse told Haji that it was “funny” how ISIS burned people alive, something that was depicted in videos the men shared with each other, investigators said.
“This was not a quick investigation," McDaniel said. "It was detailed, long-term investigations and surveillance of these individuals."
The three were arraigned Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids.