Washington, D.C. – Federal prosecutors alleged Monday that six Minneapolis men repeatedly tried to travel to Syria to join ISIS, a case law enforcement officials called the clearest window yet into a peer-to-peer ISIS recruitment network in the US. Until now, most recruits have appeared to be self-starters, heeding a clarion call broadcast via propaganda videos on the Internet and representations of life in the ISIS caliphate portrayed on social media.
But in bringing charges against the six men Monday, Minnesota US Attorney Andrew Luger described a recruiter, American Abdi Nur, who succeeded in reaching Syria and then spent months encouraging his friends back in Minneapolis to join him fighting with ISIS, during which time they allegedly made several unsuccessful attempts to do so.
The FBI had the help of a cooperating witness, who had initially planned to travel with the group but then decided to help the FBI by recording calls and social media communications between Nur and his friends. The federal complaint also portrays multiple intervention efforts of friends and family members, and even the FBI, to try to dissuade the alleged recruits from carrying out their plans before the FBI finally made the arrests.
Lugar, speaking at a news conference, said the recruiting in this case was, “Friend to friend. Brother to brother.” He added, “They did have extra help. They had their friend Abdi Nur. Because he made it to Syria last year and knows different routes and has different contacts, he’s become a de facto foreign fighter recruiter for those in Minnesota.”
The personal connection between Nur and his potential recruits is one that the local community should pay attention to, Lugar also stressed. “Parents and loved ones should know that there is not one master recruiter organizing in the community locally,” Lugar said. “What this case shows is that the person radicalizing your son, your brother, your friend, may not be a stranger. It may be their best friend right here in town.”
The cooperating witness was detained alongside two of his friends Sunday in San Diego. His name and details of his case aren’t public. The other four were arrested Sunday in Minneapolis as they prepared to take the same route.