Photo courtesy Abdullahi Said Omar and Minnesota Public Radio
MINNEAPOLIS - After years of investigation and a nearly three week trial, jurors found a Minneapolis man guilty of all five terror-related counts.
Mahamud Said Omar is accused of helping the terrorist group al-Shabab by recruiting more than 20 Minnesota men to fight in the Somali civil war.
"We very much value here in the U.S. our religious freedoms. We very much value our ability to get involved in political movements here locally, nationally, and overseas but there are some lines you just cannot cross," said U.S Attorney B. Todd Jones.
Prosecutors allege, of the men Omar recruited, many died, some even while killing others.
"It's a tragedy and it's a sad thing for their families, for their mothers, brothers, their sisters, their aunts, uncles. And that's something we can't back the clock on," he said.
"The family is of course devastated. They were not expecting this," said community activist Omar Jamal.
Speaking on behalf of Omar's family, Jamal accepts the jury's decision despite telling KARE 11 during the trial he felt Omar was innocent. But he realizes this investigation should not end here.
"One thing we know for sure, the individuals are still out there with the crazy mind of still recruiting and indoctrinating young kids and putting them in harm's way," said Jamal.
Omar's attorney, Andrew Birrell, did not address the news media Thursday, but has contended Omar, a former janitor in the Twin Cities, was too small to help coordinate such a big operation.
An appeal is expected. Omar is in jail awaiting sentencing. He could face life in prison.
Outside of the federal courthouse, Jones said many people were relieved to hear the verdict, no more he believes than the Twin Cities Somali community.
Meanwhile, prosecutors believe this is the first prosecution of someone linked to al-Shabab that has gone to trial. They plan to continue their investigation, knowing this conviction maybe the first of many.
"It's the kind of thing that cannot go on in this community," said Assistant U.S. attorney John Docherty.
(Copyright 2012 by KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)