NEWARK, N.J. — Two New Jersey men, who were convicted of conspiring to travel to Somalia to join a terrorist group and murder individuals whose beliefs and practices did not align with their extremist ideology, were sentenced April 16 to 22 and 20 years in prison, respectively.
The individuals were previously arrested following a multi-agency investigation involving special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigation (HSI).
Mohamed Hamoud Alessa, 23, of North Bergen, N.J., was sentenced to 264 months in prison. Carlos Eduardo Almonte, aka Omar, 27, of Elmwood Park, N.J., was sentenced to 240 months in prison. Both individuals previously pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to murder persons outside the United States on behalf of designated Foreign Terrorist Organization Al Shabaab.
According to court documents, Alessa and Almonte admitted that they planned to travel outside the United States to join Al Shabaab, an international terrorist group based in Somalia, knowing the group was engaged in carrying out violent attacks against individuals in that country – including members of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia and African Union soldiers. As part of this campaign, Al Shabaab has conducted military assaults, bombings and other violent acts, and has attempted through its media operations to recruit foreigners – including Americans and other westerners – to join its ranks.
In October 2006, the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), which is led by the FBI, received a tip concerning the defendants' activities. As the investigation continued, a New York City Police Department Intelligence Division undercover officer recorded numerous meetings and conversations with them, during which the defendants discussed and prepared to carry out their plan.
The defendants admitted that those preparations included: saving and pooling thousands of dollars; physically conditioning themselves by, among other things, lifting weights and running; engaging in combat simulations using paintball guns, computer software and other items; acquiring tactical clothing, hydration systems and other equipment; and purchasing airline tickets to Egypt with the intent to then travel to Somalia. They also admitted that as part of their plan, Alessa and Almonte had traveled to Jordan in February 2007 and while there, inquired about opportunities to meet with groups committed to establishing Islamic law through violence.
Additionally, Alessa and Almonte admitted that they acquired, viewed and displayed for others audio, video and written materials – produced by and relating to Al Qaeda, Al Shabaab and other extremist groups – which advocated, depicted and/or sought to justify the killing of individuals who opposed them, including civilians.
In addition to the prison terms, Alessa and Almonte were sentenced to lifetime terms of supervised release.