Alleged militants detained in Djibouti charged by U.S. court

Fri Dec 28, 2012 6:00pm EST
 
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By Mark Hosenball

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - In a sign of evolving U.S. legal tactics in counter-terrorism operations, two Swedish citizens and a former British citizen detained in Africa in August have been charged in a U.S. court with supporting Somali-based Islamist militants.

The charges were filed in Federal Court in Brooklyn, New York, even though court papers and a press release from the U.S. Attorney's office make no specific allegation that the three - all of whom are of Somali extraction - posed threats to Americans or U.S.-related targets.

The three suspects - two Swedish citizens and a former London resident whose British citizenship recently was revoked - were charged with supporting the militant group al-Shabaab, illegal use of high-powered firearms, and participating in what prosecutors called "an elite al-Shabaab suicide-bomber program."

Ephraim Savitt, a former federal prosecutor who represents one of the Swedish defendants, said he was unaware of any secret evidence that the men threatened U.S. interests, and he saw "no prosecutorial hook whatever to the United States."

Savitt said he was unaware of any previous case in which U.S. authorities had taken custody of foreign militants who had no obvious connection, and posed no known threat, to U.S. interests.

However, a U.S. law enforcement source said there had been cases in the past where suspected foreign militants arrested overseas who had not directly threatened the United States had been brought before U.S. courts on terrorism-related charges.

The latest suspects - Swedes Ali Yasin Ahmed and Mohamed Yusuf, and former British resident Madhi Hashi - were detained by local authorities in Africa in early August while on their way to Yemen, the statement from prosecutors said.

The suspects were subsequently indicted in October by a Brooklyn-based federal grand jury, and in mid-November the FBI "took custody" of them and brought them to Brooklyn, where a revised indictment was filed against them, prosecutors said.   Continued...