A Somali-American woman from Kent, Washington, has been found guilty of funneling money to a terrorist group. Court documents say the money paid for safe houses and military operations for al-Shabaab, a group affiliated with Al Qaeda.
The case has sparked concerns within the Seattle area’s large Somali community.
In court records, Hinda Osman Dhirane admitted she supports al-Shabaab, an insurgent group that’s violently fought the government in Somalia for the past decade.
Federal prosecutors used recorded phone calls and internet chats to build the case against Dhirane, leading to her conviction as part of a conspiracy that used wire transfers to directly support the terrorist group.
In one recording, Dhirane and another woman laughed as gunmen killed dozens of people at a mall in Nairobi, Kenya. Al-Shabaab later claimed responsibility.
Dhirane and co-conspirators were also recorded as they laughed at the Boston Marathon Bombing before it became known who committed the attack, according to court documents.
Dhirane is a U.S. citizen who’s lived here nearly three decades. Her case caught many in Seattle’s Somali community off guard.
Hamdi Abdulle calls it a wake-up call about what to do if someone may be a threat.
"These can have consequences of safely to all, not just some," Abdulle said. "How do you report that? Who do you need to report to? How can you keep us all safe?"
Abdulle runs Somali Youth and Family Club, a local nonprofit. She oversees programs that help steer young people away from dangerous ideologies. But now she wonders if more outreach is needed for women and mothers, as well as more training for them on the laws of this land.
The case highlighted the use of wire transfers. That’s the way most Somali immigrants in the U.S. send money to relatives back home. But in recent years, the feds have cracked down on the services because it’s hard to track where the money goes.
Many Somalis criticize the heavy scrutiny. But Abdulle said she’s okay with some extra precautions. She doesn’t want her money to end up in the hands of terrorists.
“I don't mind if they watch us. I mean I wonder as well. I want somebody to watch if I’m doing harm to my country, which is the United States of America,” Abdulle said.
Dhirane faces up to 15 years in prison when she is sentenced in January.