The Eastern District of Texas has convicted an international terrorist incarcerated in the US Bureau of Prisons for additional terrorism offences committed in prison. The 45-year-old Eretria-born Ethiopian citizen, Mohamed Ibrahim Ahmed, was found guilty of seeking to provide material assistance for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
He was also convicted for making a false statement to the FBI. Ahmed was acquitted of two other charges and the verdict on another is pending. He could face up to 25 years in federal prison for the conviction.
First conviction in 2013
Under the USA Patriot Act, providing material support for terrorism is a crime. Based on the evidence presented in 2013, Ahmed was found guilty in the Southern District of New York, conspiring to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization and acquire military-style training from it.
He had previously received training in 1996 at an Al-Qaeda camp in Afghanistan. The Ethiopian national was also a member of a network that provided logistic and financial assistance to terrorist groups— the Brandbergen Mosque network. A sentence of 111 months in federal prison was pronounced by a federal judge in New York, and Ahmed was shifted to the Federal Correctional Institute (FCI) in Beaumont, Texas, to serve his sentence.
A repeat offender
John C Demers, Assistant Attorney General for National Security, said in a statement that, "This defendant is a repeat offender. While in prison on terrorism charges, Ahmed continued to recruit fellow inmates to join ISIS to train them and to help them plan future attacks."
During his incarceration at the FCI-Beaumont, Ahmed is said to have continued with his terrorist activities. This included the recruitment of five inmates into ISIS, and enrolling them into carrying out acts of terrorism across the United States after serving their federal sentences.
He wanted the recruits to either create sleeper cells within the United States or join the ISIS abroad. When a slew of terrorist attacks, including one at a concert at Manchester, England, took place, he allegedly celebrated the acts and proclaimed to a fellow inmate, "They kill kids, we gonna kill kids."
His recruitment activities also included conducting conditioning exercises within the prison to prepare his recruits physically in order to accomplish the attacks he was planning. A plot to bomb the Federal Detention Center in New York City as revenge for his prosecution was also discussed with them. He had also provided them with manuals that dealt with topics such as guerrilla warfare and guidelines for carrying out violent jihad.
Commitment to ideology and the evolving threat
"This terrorist has shown that he was committed to his ideology and to violence," said Joseph D Brown, US Attorney, Eastern District of Texas. He emphasized that it was essential to charge Ahmed not just to keep him away from the public, but also for it to serve as a deterrent to potential recruiters within prisons.
Highlighting the threats posed by such terrorists, Perrye Turner, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Houston Division, stressed that they must not be overlooked or underestimated. "The threat from ISIS continues to evolve to include sustained radicalization online, loss of the physical caliphate, and inspiration for individuals to conduct attacks in their home countries using any means possible," he added.