U.S. Places Somali-American Man on No-Fly List; Then Adds His Older Brother to FBI’s ‘Most-Wanted Terrorist’ ListA Somali-American man from northern Virginia, who was added to FBI’s “Most-Wanted Terrorists” list on Thursday for being an al-Shabaab recruiter, went into hiding to avoid harassment from the FBI, an attorney representing the al-Shabaab suspect’s younger brother told The Associated Press.
The FBI unsealed the arrest warrant Thursday for Liban Haji Mohamed, a 29-year-old U.S. citizen from Somalia. He is charged with providing material support to al-Qaida and al-Shabaab.
His younger brother, Gulet Mohamed, was detained by Kuwaiti authorities in 2011 when Gulet was 19. Gulet has said that he was beaten and interrogated at the behest of the U.S. and denied the right to fly home. U.S. authorities allowed Gulet to fly home after he filed a federal lawsuit, but Gulet says he remains on the list without justification.
A hearing on Gulet’s case is scheduled in federal court in the northern Virginia town of Alexandria on Friday.
Liban aggressively advocated on his brother’s behalf to get him home when was detained in Kuwait several years ago and barred from returning to the U.S., and that the FBI began to harass him as a result, said Gadeir Abbas, the attorney representing Gulet.
“[Liban] was constantly being approached by people of dubious backgrounds that bore the hallmark of FBI informants,” Abbas told the AP. “The family believes Liban may have sought to escape that scrutiny.”
He said his family suspects he went into hiding to avoid the harassment.
“Al-Shabaab has killed Liban’s uncle and imprisoned his cousins,” Abbas said. “His family believes the allegations have no basis in fact.”
Abbas said the timing of the FBI’s announcement is an attempt to influence a judge to toss out a lawsuit that Gulet filed against the government challenging his placement on the no-fly list. The government is seeking to have the case tossed out, in part because it says it would be forced to divulge state secrets if forced to defend the lawsuit.
“We would question the timing of the FBI’s placement of Liban on the most-wanted list on the day before a major hearing on the government’s authority to maintain the no-fly list,” Abbas said in a telephone interview.
The U.S. government has long refused to even confirm whether Gulet is on the no-fly list. Gulet said he went to Somalia and Yemen briefly in 2009 to stay with family and learn Arabic, and investigators questioned him about his travels.
Family loses contact with Liban
Abbas said that in 2012, the Mohamed family lost contact with Liban and asked the lawyer to see if the FBI knew of his whereabouts.
Before he left the U.S. in July 2012, Liban lived in the northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., where he worked as a cab driver.
The FBI said Liban was a recruiter and radicalizer for al Shabaab when he was living in northern Virginia.
“Not only did [Liban] choose to go to Somalia and fight with al-Shabaab, he took a prominent role in trying to recruit people and have them train with weapons,” said Carl Ghattas, special agent in charge of the Counterterrorism Division at the FBI’s Washington field office.
The FBI said it is offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Liban.
“It is important for us to locate [Liban] because he has knowledge of the Washington, D.C. area’s infrastructure such as shopping areas, metro, airports, and government buildings,” Ghattas said. “This makes him an asset to his terrorist associates who might plot attacks on U.S. soil.”
The FBI has launched a social media campaign — including a Somali-language Facebook page — that it hopes will encourage people to come forward with information about Liban.
There are 31 people on the FBI’s list of most-wanted terrorists, and Liban is the newest fugitive added to the list.