Terrorism trial highlights US deradicalisation effort

Terrorism trial highlights US deradicalisation effort

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Authorities in the US claim fewer young people are leaving to join the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. Now they are trying to stop them becoming radicalised in the first place.

After listening to 17 days of intense testimony in a federal courtroom in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a jury entered deliberations on Wednesday.

They are weighing the evidence that three young Somali-Americans tried to join IS: Abdirahman Yasin Daud, 22; Guled Ali Omar, 21; and Mohamed Abdihamid Farah, 22.

The men have been charged with conspiracy to commit murder and could be sentenced to life in prison. They have pleaded not guilty.

One of the government’s key witnesses against them was one of their friends – Abdullahi Yusuf, who pleaded guilty to conspiring to provide material support to IS in February 2015. In court, he described how the group became radicalised.

According to court documents, the men learned about the plight of Muslims in Syria and wanted to fight against President Bashar al-Assad.

In the meantime they played basketball, went shopping and watched IS videos.

Yusuf will be sentenced later. He could receive up to 15 years in prison.

In the meantime, US District Judge Michael Davis has sent Yusuf to a facility where he will be under heavy supervision and receive counselling rather than to a jail, apparently in recognition that he can still turn his life around.

It is part of a new effort at deradicalisation that is picking up steam in the US. The trial, says National Defense University’s Kim Cragin, is “the perfect example” of this trend.

“You have a judge who’s trying to find alternative means,” says Cragin, who writes about violent extremism.