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Ohio man pleads guilty to supporting al-Shabaab

By David Bailey

MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - A 27-year-old Ohio man pleaded guilty on Monday to federal charges of helping raise money for al-Shabaab rebels in Somalia, prosecutors said.

Ahmed Hussein Mahamud pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to provide material support to a U.S. - designated terror group.

He faces a maximum of 15 years in prison when he is sentenced at a later date.

Mahamud, who was indicted in June 2011, admitted to telling people in the Somali-American community in Minnesota the money would support a local Mosque or orphans but using it instead to help send men to Somalia to join Shabaab, according to a plea agreement with federal prosecutors.

Mahamud and others raised up to $1,500 in the effort, using some of the money on airline tickets or other expenses, according to the plea deal.

In other instances, Mahamud admitted to wiring $50 to a man in Somalia who was buying a firearm, $50 for other expenses to a second man and assisting someone in sending $100 to Somalia for a weapons purchase to support the organization, according to the plea agreement.

Mahamud, a Westerville, Ohio, resident who formerly lived in Minnesota, admitted to providing the support from 2008 through February of 2011.

Minnesota is home to the largest Somali-American population in the United States.

Since September 2007, about 20 men have left Minneapolis for Somalia to join Shabaab. Eighteen people have been charged in federal court in Minnesota so far in the investigation. Eight have been arrested and seven have pleaded guilty.

At least two of the men who have been charged in the Minnesota investigation are believed to have been killed in Somalia.

The guilty plea comes weeks after a U.S. bank decided to shut down wire transfer services that provide a lifeline from Minnesota to Somalia over concerns that it could risk violating U.S. regulatory and anti-terrorism finance laws.

Somali-Americans send about $100 million per year home to Somalia through small money transfer businesses because Somalia has no formal banking system.

(This version Corrects defendant's age in first paragraph)

(Reporting by David Bailey; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Tim Gaynor)

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