Minneapolis, MN, October 15, 2011 — Two Minnesota women accused of
funneling money to a terror group in Somalia talked about collecting
money for al-Shabaab, supporting fighters instead of other charities and
the possibility that FBI was listening in on their conversations,
according to hours of recorded phone calls played for jurors.
Prosecutors have built the bulk of their case by playing more than 80
phone calls recorded during a 10-month wiretap on the home and
cellphones of Amina Farah Ali, 35. In those calls, prosecutors allege,
Ali is heard talking to her co-defendant, 64-year-old Hawo Mohamed
Hassan, as well as leaders of al-Shabaab in Somalia. The calls include
recordings of teleconferences in which the women gave religious lectures
and collected donations.
Ali and Hassan are accused of being part of a “deadly pipeline” that
routed money and fighters from the U.S. to Somalia. The women, U.S.
citizens of Somali descent, are charged with conspiracy to provide
material support to a foreign terrorist organization. The women have
said they were raising money for needy refugees in Somalia.
The recorded calls are all in Somali. Jurors are following along with
written transcripts that have been translated into English by the
In one October 2008 call between Ali and Hassan, prosecutors allege that
as the two women were discussing where the money should go, Ali said the
priority be those who stand up for Islam. “Let the civilians die,” she
said. In a Feb. 10, 2009, teleconference, Ali told others, “Let’s forget
about the other charities — how about the jihad?”
Ali and Hassan are among 20 people charged in Minnesota’s long-running
federal investigations into recruiting and financing for al-Shabaab,
which the U.S. considers a terror group with ties to al-Qaida.
Investigators believe at least 21 men left Minnesota — home to the
country’s largest Somali community — to join al-Shabaab. Though others
have pleaded guilty to related charges, the women are the first to go on
Ali faces 12 counts of providing such support — for allegedly sending
more than $8,600 to the group from September 2008 through July 2009.
Hassan faces three counts of lying to the FBI.
Since last week, prosecutors have been methodically presenting evidence
to connect Ali’s phone conversations to the counts against her, matching
dollar figures mentioned in calls to phone numbers or accounts of
al-Shabaab members, and to receipts from hawalas, or money transfer
According to some of the wide-ranging calls, Ali gets updates from an
al-Shabaab member about the fighting in Somalia. In many, she tells
others how to send funds to Somalia. She gives fictitious names and the
numbers of al-Shabaab accounts to those who will be sending the money,
and talks about sending it in small amounts to avoid detection,
In one call, Ali explains she will not get a license for her charity
because she doesn’t want to report where the money is going. “I don’t
want to lie to God,” she said.
Ali’s attorney, Dan Scott, noted during cross-examination of FBI Special
Agent Michael Wilson that his client took steps to ensure the money
people donated specifically for orphans went to the orphans — and
nowhere else. In one call that took place in November 2008, Scott notes,
Ali ticks off a list of donations, totaling $7,000, that went to a
variety of causes including the wounded, mentally ill, poor people — and
Scott also noted that after the U.S. declared al-Shabaab a terror group
in February 2008, the FBI made no attempt to “inform her that she should
not be sending money to this newly declared foreign terrorist
In one call between Ali and Hassan, dated May 6, 2009, Hassan and Ali
talk about sending girls out to collect money in Seattle, North
Carolina, and elsewhere. In that call, Hassan says others should “forget
about the families at this moment, because the frontline is empty.”
In another call between Ali and Hassan, on April 3, 2009, the two women
talk about how anyone could be listening in to the teleconferences,
including “all troublemakers, FBI and people sent by them and filth.”
In a teleconference on Feb. 10, 2009, an unidentified man asks who the
fundraising is for. Ali replies: “Brother, whom do you want to give it
to? The orphans, the poor ... the Mujahidin (holy warriors)? Actually,
jihad is your duty brother. What are you going to pledge?”.