Former Whitehall student accused of terrorist acts pleaded guilty

Eric Lyttle
Columbus Monthly

The Southern District of Ohio federal court today unsealed a plea agreement in which Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud, 25, of Columbus pleaded guilty to three terrorist-related charges nearly two years ago.

According to a release from the U.S. Department of Justice, the guilty plea was kept sealed because of an ongoing investigation. No other information about that related investigation was revealed.

Mohamud, who was the subject of a feature, “Terrorist Among Us?” that appeared in the January edition ofColumbus Monthly, was charged in April 2015 with one count of attempting to provide and providing material support to terrorists, one count of attempting to provide and providing material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization—in this case, the al-Nusra Front—and one count of making false statements to the FBI involving international terrorism. He pleaded guilty to all counts in August 2015.

“Mohamud admitted to traveling overseas, providing material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization and receiving training from terrorists,” said Acting Assistant U.S. Attorney General Dana Boente in the release. “He also admitted to returning to the United States and planning to conduct an attack on American soil.”

According to court documents, Mohamud, a Somali-born naturalized U.S. citizen, obtained a one-way ticket to Greece in 2014, but failed to board his connecting flight to Athens and instead, left his layover point in Istanbul, Turkey, and crossed the border into Syria, where he received tactical training from al-Nusra Front, a terrorist organization affiliated with al-Qaeda, on how to enter a structure and kill people inside, among other things.

After his brother, Aden, was killed while fighting for al-Nusra Front in Syria on June 3, 2014, Mohamud, a former Whitehall-Yearling High School student, returned to the U.S. four days later and began formulating a plan to obtain weapons to carry out an attack on U.S.-based soldiers, law enforcement or other government employees. He told an acquaintance that he attempted to recruit that he planned “something big” such as traveling to Texas to capture three or four soldiers and kill them execution-style, according to court documents.

In September 2014, he was photographed at the LEPD Firearms & Range on Bethel Road teaching three others how to fire a handgun. In November he booked a flight from Columbus to Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, but the flight was later changed. He was arrested on Feb. 21, 2015.

Mohamud will be sentenced at a later date. He faces up to 15 years in prison on the first two counts of providing material support to a terrorist organization and up to eight years for lying to the FBI.