CASCADE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A man arrested at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport is one of three Lansing men facing federal charges for their alleged support of ISIS.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office says they arrested 20-year-old Muse Abdikadir Muse Monday at the airport after he checked in for the first of a series of flights to Mogadishu, Somalia.
Federal authorities say his 23-year-old brother, Mohamud Abdikadir Muse and cousin, 26-year-old Mohamed Salat Haji, were arrested in the airport shortly thereafter for allegedly helping him buy the plane tickets earlier this month and driving him to the airport, knowing he was leaving to join and fight for ISIS.
Federal agents searched a Lansing home shared by the Muse brothers after their arrest. It’s unclear what they uncovered.
The federal criminal complaint states all three men pledged their allegiance to ISIS in videos they recorded themselves. The Department of Justice says Muse Muse and Haji allegedly discussed their desire to join ISIS, kill non-believers and even potentially use a car to run down non-believers in the U.S. if they couldn’t get overseas to fight for ISIS.
The federal criminal complaint says in 2016, the FBI was alerted to a Facebook account linked to Mohamud Muse that contained frequent pro-ISIS photos, videos and statements and “violent, extremist propaganda.” The complaint states from two Facebook accounts, Mohamad Muse told an undercover FBI employee he was saving money to travel to Raqqa, Syria to join ISIS.
Facebook suspended Mohamud Abdikadir Muse’s first account in July 2017 and his second one in October 2017.
Federal authorities say they issued a search warrant to Facebook for information about Mohamud Muse’s first account and found him exchanging messages of support and ISIS videos with Haji. In 2018, a federal search of the second Facebook account uncovered pro-ISIS messages between Mohamud Muse and Muse Muse.
When federal authorities analyzed Muse Muse’s Facebook page, they said they found numerous messages “the two shared a desire to fight for ISIS” and even referenced the Oct. 31, 2017 Tribeca truck attack in New York City.
“You have spoken the truth, just wait for the opportunity. It will present itself if we are truthful. But know right it’s gonna require some type of sacrifice,” Muse Muse wrote, according to the court filing.
Two undercover FBI employees contacted Muse Muse and Haji in October 2018, posing as a man in Somalia and an Islamic convert in Chicago. Muse Muse told one agent he planned to travel to Somalia to fight for ISIS, and allegedly sent a video pledging his allegiance to the group. He also said he would have enough money to make the trip in six or eight months.
Muse Muse also sent the FBI agent a video of Haji pledging his allegiance to ISIS, the complaint states.
Haji also said he was saving money to join ISIS, according to the complaint.
During a Dec. 14, 2018 meeting with an undercover FBI agent in Benton Harbor, Muse Muse allegedly said if he couldn’t make it to Somalia, he would get a car and run down non-believers, like what happened in France. Both he and Haji said if they couldn’t get out of the U.S., “Allah commanded that martyrdom is the only option.”
In December and January, Muse Muse coordinated flights and paid $1,749 for tickets with the help of his brother and cousin, who had borrowed the money from undercover FBI agents. Muse Muse also obtained a U.S. passport that month, the complaint states.
On Jan. 15, Muse Muse and Haji met up with an undercover agent at a Lansing Walmart where they bought combat boots, talked about joining ISIS and a martyrdom operation if that failed.
Muse Muse was arrested by officers as he was completing his security screening. His brother and cousin were arrested in the airport terminal, the complaint states.
At the suspect’s Lansing home Wednesday, an extended family member said no one had any idea what Muse Abdikadir Muse was planning.
“It was all shocking to everybody,” she said.
Neighbors said they were stunned, too.
“They kept to themselves,” neighbor Kim Garcia said. “You don’t expect this to happen next door.”
Also Wednesday, the FBI issued the following statement in regards to the case:
“This has been a long-term investigation by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force in Lansing, Detroit and Grand Rapids. FBI employees and task force officers assigned to the JTTF have been working around the clock, through the most recent holidays and during the ongoing government shutdown to disrupt this cell. The JTTF is continuing to pursue all logical investigative leads, but we believe the threat has been mitigated by Monday’s arrests and have no reason to believe there are any additional subjects associated with this cell who are not in custody.”
The Department of Justice says all three men are U.S. citizens who were born in Kenya. Haji is a naturalized U.S. citizen and the brothers became U.S. citizens as children when their parents went through the naturalization process.
All three men are charged with conspiring to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization. The charge carries a sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison.
The men remain in custody pending arraignment and a hearing on the government’s request to keep them detained until trial.
—24 Hour News 8’s Heather Walker contributed to this report.