MINNEAPOLIS - A Minnesota man pulled off an airplane bound for Turkey last year has been charged with repeatedly lying to federal agents investigating the recruitment of young US residents to join Islamist militant groups, prosecutors said on Thursday.
Hamza Ahmed, 19, and three other young Minnesota men took a bus to New York from Minneapolis where authorities stopped them from leaving on international flights on Nov. 9, FBI Special Agent Daniel Higgins said in court papers.
The charge of making false statements against Ahmed, a Minneapolis resident, was unsealed on Thursday.
Ahmed and a man identified by the initials M.F. in a criminal complaint had tickets on the same flight to Istanbul, Turkey, which has been used as a gateway to Syria for people who have fought for Islamic State, the agent said.
Ahmed was removed from the flight and interviewed in New York and later in Minnesota, telling agents he was traveling by himself, did not know the other men and had planned to stay by himself in Madrid for four days, the complaint said.
Agents found his itinerary would have allowed Ahmed one full day in Madrid, and video footage showed that he and M.F. went to a Minnesota bus station together and interacted extensively before their bus trip to New York, according to the complaint.
Ahmed and M.F. purchased bus tickets within 25 minutes of each other, likely using the same computer, the agent said. All four men were aged 19 or 20, authorities said.
Ahmed also denied knowing another man who authorities believe traveled to Syria in 2014, but agents found they had exchanged extensive messages on Twitter, the complaint said.
Ahmed was ordered held temporarily in a brief appearance on Thursday before a magistrate judge in US District Court in St. Paul. Another hearing is scheduled for Monday.