APHundreds of newly trained Shabaab fighters perform military exercises in the Lafofe area some 18Km south of Mogadishu on Thursday Feb. A low-profile New York federal court case offers a rare glimpse into that clandestine offensive, which involves not only U.S. Ali Yasin Ahmed and Mohamed Yusuf, both Swedish citizens, and Mahdi Hashi, a former British citizen, were charged in federal court in Brooklyn with conspiring to provide material support to a foreign terrorist group, providing such support, and violating U.S.
Al Shabaab, which seeks to impose conservative Islamic rule in Somalia, has factions allied with the global al Qaeda movement, but has largely focused its activities in East Africa. A SEAL raid in the same area four years earlier killed another top al Shabaab leader, Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan.
But Harry Batchelder, a defense lawyer who until recently represented Hashi, questioned how U.S.
While some aspects of the New York case have been previously reported, Reuters has learned new details, particularly about Hashi's alleged activities. British activist groups sympathetic to Hashi report that he has recently started a hunger strike. Investigators and legal sources also say that Yusuf, using the name Abu Zaid, made aA videoA in 2010 in which he threatened to behead a Danish cartoonist who had lampooned the Prophet Mohammad. However, sources close to the men's defense teams who have talked to the suspects and their associates say that when they were detained in August 2012 in Djibouti, they were trying to flee Somalia and leave al Shabaab. Legal sources familiar with the case described it as one of the more notable uses under U.S.


After being held for a time in a Djibouti prison a€” where the former al Shabaab militants allege they were treated roughly by local authorities a€” they were questioned by a team of U.S. Information on the group has become more urgent for security services following the deadly attack by militants on the upscale Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi. Ahmed Godane, the leader of Shabaab's dominant, pro-al Qaeda faction, claimed credit for the attack.
Defense lawyers said that once Ahmed, Yusuf and Hashi, all of Somali extraction, were in the United States, investigators began pressuring them to provide information about al Shabaab's leaders and operations.
In a possible ploy to increase pressure on the defendants, federal prosecutors last month placed a letter in the public court record alleging the former fighters had "substantial knowledge" of a purported Shabaab "research and development department" involved in developing chemical weapons. Hashi, the former London resident, traveled a perilous course in which apparently he ran afoul of both al Shabaab and Western intelligence.
In 2010, British authorities revoked Hashi's British citizenship, meaning that when he was later picked up by the Americans, he could make no appeal to London for help.
Sources familiar with the case said the British took this action because they had insufficient evidence to prosecute Hashi for terrorism-related offenses under British law, but did not want him to return to Britain. During sojourns with al Shabaab in Somalia, Hashi acted as an associate, or lieutenant, to a high-ranking leader of the group named Bilal Al-Berjawi, those familiar with his case said. Al Shabaab leaders grabbed Hashi, imprisoned him, and beat him up, possibly because they suspected he had some role in Berjawi's death, said a source familiar with the case. Not long after the men headed for Yemen, al Shabaab said on its Twitter feed that it had executed three other men for spying for the CIA and MI5 and helping them kill Berjawi.


This file contains additional information, probably added from the digital camera or scanner used to create or digitize it.
If the file has been modified from its original state, some details may not fully reflect the modified file. 17, 2011.(Reuters) a€” For years before Saturday's unsuccessful raid in Somalia to capture a top al Shabaab militant, Washington had waged a secret law enforcement and spy war against the group, which claimed responsibility for last month's deadly assault on a Kenyan shopping mall but has little record of targeting the United States.
Navy SEALS stormed ashore into the al Shabaab stronghold of Barawe on Saturday in response to the September attack on the Westgate mall in Kenya but, a U.S.
After first being detained in secret, they were charged in November and ordered held without bail.
The suspects intend to challenge their indictments in court, though a trial date has not been set.
But eventually al Shabaab "cleared" Hashi and he left the group with the two Swedes, the source said. Gabriella Augustsson, a spokeswoman for Sweden's embassy in Washington, said that a Swedish consular official had visited the two and been in contact with their lawyers.
But defense lawyers dispute investigators' assertions that the suspects intended to join Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, widely regarded as central al Qaeda's most deadly spinoff.



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