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Four Jailed In US For Aiding Somalia's Islamist Group

A U.S. federal judge on Tuesday sentenced three men to three years in prison and handed down a 12-year prison term to a fourth for aiding in the recruitment of fighters for al-Shabaab, an outlawed Somali Islamist militant group.

Abdifatah Isse, Salah Ahmed and Ahmed Mahamud were each given three-year prison terms by Judge Michael Davis of the Minneapolis Federal Court after they pleaded guilty to providing material support to al-Shabab.

Isse and Ahmed had earlier admitted to traveling to Somalia in December 2007 for attending an al-Shabaab training camp. They spent a week at the camp, but left the East African state in the spring of 2008 after having second thoughts.

Mahamud, on the other hand, admitted that he had raised money for other recruits to travel to Somalia. Although he as well as Isse and Ahmed faced a maximum of 15 years in prison, prosecutors recommended lesser sentences for the trio due to their cooperation with investigators.

The fourth person sentenced on Tuesday in the same case was 28-year-old Omer Abdi Mohamed, who received a 12-year prison term. He had pleaded guilty in July 2011 to one count of conspiring to provide material support to co-conspirators who intended to murder, kidnap, or maim Ethiopian and Somali government troops.

"These defendants, by providing material support to a designated terrorist organization, broke both the law and the hearts of family members across the Twin Cities," Todd Jones, the U.S. Attorney for Minnesota, said in a statement after the sentencing.

Al-Shabaab is Somalia's most prominent and influential Islamist militant unit. The al-Qaeda aligned outfit has been branded as a terrorist organization by the United States and most of the international community. It is the military wing of the Islamist movement ousted by Ethiopia-backed Somali forces in 2006.

Until recently, al-Shabaab and other allied groups controlled large areas in southern Somalia where they enforced strict Islamic laws or Sharia. But in 2011, Somali forces, backed by African Union peacekeepers, managed to seize control of most of the rebels-held regions in recent months, except some pockets in rural southern and central Somalia.

Incidentally, Somalia marked a historic political watershed last August when the first formal Parliament was sworn-in, ending the "transition" phase which had begun with the 2004 launch of a U.N.-backed interim government. The previous functioning government ended in 1991 with the overthrow of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.

The Horn of Africa nation is currently emerging from a long and difficult period of instability, with representative institutions and a new government that has made a commendable commitment to uphold human rights and the rule of law for all. Despite these positive developments, the country still witnesses frequent bombings and militant attacks, mainly in Mogadishu.

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