Lansing man accused of supporting Islamic State group sentenced to prison

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

A Lansing man accused of pledging allegiance to and helping a relative join the Islamic State group has been sentenced to 130 months in federal prison, officials said.

Mohamed Salat Haji, 28, pleaded guilty in June to conspiring to provide material support to IS, which has been designated a foreign terrorist organization.

He and two family members were first charged more than two years ago in connection with supporting the group's militants.

On Jan. 21, 2019, FBI special agents and members of its Joint Terrorism Task Force arrested Haji at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids after he helped his cousin, Muse Abdikadir Muse, check in for a flight to the first of multiple destinations en route to Mogadishu, Somalia, with the goal of joining IS, authorities reported.

Muse's brother, Mohamud, also was arrested for conspiring to provide material support to IS. All three were naturalized U.S. citizens born in Kenya and living in Lansing, the U.S. Department of Justice has reported.

According to a criminal complaint, the FBI started tracking the men as early as 2016, when the bureau noted Mohamud Muse’s Facebook page “revealed frequent posts of photos, videos, and statements and commentary that were pro-ISIS in nature and what can be described as violent, extremist propaganda."

An undercover FBI employee posing as an IS recruiter started communicating with Muse Muse through the account in 2017. Between December 2018 and January 2019, Muse Muse "coordinated with someone he believed to be a Somali ISIS fighter to wire funds to be used to purchase airline tickets for travel to Somalia," where he hoped to meet an IS representative, officials said in a statement Wednesday.

All three defendants pledged allegiance to IS in recorded videos and submitted their videos to individuals they believed were associated with the group, according to the release.

"Additionally, records provided to the Court at sentencing demonstrated that throughout the conspiracy... all three defendants participated in numerous conversations during which they discussed traveling overseas to join ISIS and even adopted fighter aliases by which they would be known when fighting for ISIS," federal officials wrote.

Haji was the third and last defendant to be sentenced in the case.

In August, Muse Muse was sentenced to serve 78 months in prison. Mohamud Muse was sentenced to serve 98 months and has been ordered to serve 12 years of supervision by the court following his release. The government sought a sentence of 240 months in prison, officials said Thursday.

Haji's sentencing came the same week federal officials announced an Ypsilanti man the FBI has accused of being an Islamic State supporter was convicted on gun charges.