MINNEAPOLIS — One of five Minnesota men due to go on trial next month for conspiring to provide material support to the Islamic State group changed his plea Thursday to guilty, saying he succumbed to propaganda videos that preached jihad.
Adnan Abdihamid Farah, 20, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization. Three other counts were dropped, including conspiracy to commit murder outside the United States. Farah faces a maximum of 15 years in prison but avoided a possible life sentence by taking the plea deal.
"I take responsibility for myself and actions I committed," Farah told U.S. District Judge Michael Davis, who didn't set a sentencing date.
The hearing was interrupted for about 45 minutes after Farah's mother, Ayan Farah, 39, collapsed with chest pain as proceedings got underway. Security personnel hustled her son out of the courtroom, and medics took her to a hospital for treatment. There was no immediate word on her condition.
Adnan Farah's brother, Mohamed Abdihamid Farah, 22, is among the other four defendants who are scheduled to go on trial May 9. Adnan Farah's attorney, Kenneth Udoibok, said the stress of the case has been weighing heavily on their mother.
Altogether, 10 Minnesota men have been charged with conspiracy to provide material support to the Islamic State group as part of the investigation. Five have now pleaded guilty, one remains at large. About a dozen Minnesota residents have traveled to Syria to join militant groups there in recent years.
Unlike the other defendants, Adnan Farah wasn't accused of trying to travel to Syria to fight for the Islamic State. But he told Davis that he applied for an expedited U.S. passport with the intention of doing so. He said his parents confiscated the passport when it came in the mail early. He then put a $100 down payment on a fake passport and also tried to help a co-defendant get one.
"I'm more than sorry for the pain I caused my parents," Farah said, his voice choked with emotion. "If I had listened to them I wouldn't be here today."
Outside the courtroom, Udoibok said he was confident Davis would treat Farah fairly.
While more than 22 young men have left Minnesota since 2007 to join al-Shabab in Somalia, the U.S.-born Farah, who is of Somali ancestry, said he doesn't relate to that group. But he said he watched "at least 100" Islamic State propaganda videos on YouTube with other defendants, including some that showed atrocities committed by Syrian government forces on Sunni Muslim civilians.
"Taking it in with an open heart. That's how, I guess, I formed my conclusions," he said. He also said his faith and his comfortable life in Minnesota led him to believe he was obligated help other Muslims in need.
According to court documents, Farah intended to plead guilty after his arrest last year, and urged two co-defendants to do so, too, but changed his mind after an imam persuaded his family that the defendants should stick together and go on trial.
In the end, he took the original plea deal offered by the government. "This is the hardest decision I've ever had to make," he said in court.